Column: Why won’t Newsom say the California drought is over?

Gov. Gavin Newsom came close, but couldn’t bring himself to say it: The drought is over.

It’s disappointing when a governor doesn’t acknowledge what ordinary citizens already know because they can see things for themselves.

Another drought will come soon enough. It always does. That’s the Californian pattern, climate change or not.

But for now, flooding from rivers bursting their banks is the biggest threat this spring.

There’s just something about California governors and water officials that prevents them from admitting that we’re on a dry spell and entering a rainy season.

They fear we’ll be taking long showers again and flooding our lawns. We will stop saving water and go back to wasting it. So they treat us like children and deny the obvious.

On Friday, Newsom and his water advisors stood at a Sacramento Valley farm flooded by storm drains and pointed out that it was one of California’s wettest winters on record. The snowpack of the Sierra is historically deep.

And we’re still in a drought?

Yes, Newsom claimed.

“Are we out of the drought? Is the drought over?” Newsom asked rhetorically in his opening comments at the farm, answering every reporter’s question before it was asked.

“It would be nice if a governor said the drought was over. But unfortunately, complication requires nuance.”

He said we’d just had “the three driest years in recorded history,” but acknowledged that the last three months were more like the great flood of 1862, when virtually all of the Central Valley was a lake.

“It is incumbent upon us to remain vigilant … to enable rapid tracking of groundwater recharge projects, stormwater harvesting and recycling programs,” Newsom continued.

Sure, but a California governor has tremendous powers. Why couldn’t he do all these things – speed up the recovery from the last drought while preparing for the next – without claiming that the drought will last?

By the end of the event, Newsom seemed almost ready to utter the banned words. But he stopped abruptly. The governor concluded by re-asking and re-answering the question:

“Are we out of the drought?

“Mostly, but not entirely.”

Minister Wade Crowfoot of the State Natural Resources Agency is a drought hardliner. He noted that two parts of California — the southeastern region, which relies on water from the Colorado River, and the Klamath Basin near Oregon — “continue to suffer from acute water shortages.”

“No,” he told reporters, “we don’t have a drought anymore.”

“If we declared the drought over and removed the emergency supplies,” Crowfoot said, “we would not be able to provide rapid and effective support where these conditions still exist.”

Why? The state government should be able to be honest about the so-called drought and still provide emergency aid to communities that need it.

Play it directly with the public.

When the government isn’t on par with the people and they know it, they become even more cynical and dismiss officials who are trying to run them. When it rains cats and dogs and we have the thickest snowpack in decades, most people won’t buy because there’s still a drought.

“Nobody understands a prolonged drought declaration after the 12th atmospheric flow,” says State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), a former natural resources secretary.

Anyone who thinks we’re in a drought should probably look up the word.

The Glossary of Meteorology defines “drought” as “a period of unusually dry weather lasting so long that the lack of water causes a serious hydrological imbalance in the affected area”.

OK, we’ve had three years of unusually dry weather that caused a serious hydrological imbalance. We now have unseasonably wet weather.

But hydrological imbalances persist in some areas, particularly in aquifers that have been irresponsibly depleted by farmers for decades. That doesn’t mean the drought will last. It just means we have water shortages underground — caused by drought and overpumping — and in some hard-hit small communities.

We’re not in a drought. We’re recovering from one.

Most of California’s surface is saturated.

At the end of last week, precipitation in Los Angeles for the season was 194% of normal — nearly double the average. San Diego was 149%, Bakersfield was 161%, Fresno was 183%, Sacramento was 132%, San Francisco was 153%, and Redding was 120%.

But in some places, rainfall was below average for the season: Palm Springs was 84% ​​of normal and Mt. Shasta was just 21%.

However, snow cover was epic: 228% of normal for the state. The runoff will fill foothill reservoirs this spring.

Some of the excess water is poured over fallow farm fields to seep into the ground and replenish sinking aquifers.

To Newsom’s credit, he’s tried to speed up recharging by streamlining regulations, spending government money, and making it easier for water districts and producers to refill underground reservoirs.

That led him to Yolo County Farm – to raise awareness of the landowner’s charging project.

Newsom has also rolled back some of the state’s toughest drought restrictions. And he announced that the State Water Project will significantly increase its planned summer deliveries to farms and cities — by more than doubling.

A governor couldn’t do that if we were still in a drought. Column: Why won’t Newsom say the California drought is over?

Alley Einstein

Alley Einstein is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Alley Einstein joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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