The epic battle between El Nino and California’s drought is the climatic version of two heavyweight fighters going 15 rounds. El Nino landed punches in January, but the drought roared back in February, refusing to go down. February brought exactly one day — just one day — of rain to San Diego County, and Accuweather is forecasting just three days of rain in March.
At Helix, we’re hoping this forecast is completely wrong and that El Nino will bring above average rainfall to San Diego County in March, April and May. We want local rainfall to fill Lake Cuyamaca, Lake Jennings and the City of San Diego’s El Capitan Reservoir, where Helix stores up to 10,000 acre feet of water. We don’t have to buy this local water, which lowers our expenses and can have a positive effect on water rates.
It’s important to remember that February in California is often sunny, warm and beautiful. The San Jose Mercury News did the research and discovered that the 14 consecutive days without rain that we experienced this month is not a record. They found that the 1997-98 El Nino included a 17 day dry spell and the 1982-83 El Nino included a 22 day dry spell.
The larger issue, of course, is the depth and water content of the snowpack in the Sierra, which in normal years provides about one third of the water supply for California farms and cities. The snowpack in the Northern Sierra was 118 percent of average on February 1st. On February 26th, however, after three weeks of warm and dry weather, the snowpack is 94 percent of average. Note that climatologists said earlier this year that we need about 150 percent of the average Sierra snowpack on April 1 to make a dent in the drought.