3 reasons why California’s drought isn’t really over, despite all the rain

When you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer.  Asking about the reasons the drought is not over is a nice question—but worthless.  The right question is why there is a lack of water—and that question can be answered in one word; GOVERNMENT.

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If we had built dams in the past ten years, we would have a surplus of water.  If we stopped allowing water to flow into the ocean, we would have enough water.  It is government policy to create a water shortage.  Until government gets out of the why NPR and others will detract you from the real question and the real answers.

3 reasons why California’s drought isn’t really over, despite all the rain

By Lauren Sommer, NPR,  3/24/23


Ask a water expert if California’s drought is finally done, and the answers sound something like this:

“Yes and no.” “Kind of.” “Depends what you mean by drought.”

The state has been deluged by storms this winter, hit by 12 atmospheric rivers that have led to evacuation orders, rising rivers and broken levees. In some parts of the Sierra Nevada, more than 55 feet of snow have fallen.

With reservoirs filling up, many Californians are eager to put the severe, 3-year drought behind them. A major water supplier in Southern California recently lifted mandatory conservation rules that limited outdoor watering. Large parts of the state are now free of drought, according to the federal government’s Drought Monitor, which looks at rainfall and soil moisture.

But in California, water shortages aren’t just due to a lack of rain, and the state’s chronic water problems are far from over.

“While we’ve seen some pretty fantastic wet weather and we’ve seen conditions improve, in a whole lot of places we still have some lingering impacts that still challenge California,” says Mike Anderson, the state’s climatologist.

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Decades of drought have taken their toll, and experts say that deeper issues need to be addressed before California can be fully-drought free. Here are three reasons why:

#1 – California’s groundwater drought is still bad

When California’s reservoirs declined, many cities and farmers turned to another water source: vast aquifers underground.

In drought years, groundwater has supplied up to 60% of California’s water. But the pumping has been largely unregulated. So over the decades, water levels have fallen dramatically in California’s aquifers. Before this winter, some groundwater wells were at the lowest points ever recorded. That’s because in the Central Valley, groundwater hasn’t been replenished after previous droughts.

“Groundwater is the dark matter of the hydrologic cycle,” says Graham Fogg, professor emeritus of hydrogeology at the University of California Davis. “The fact that these are such huge volumes of water allows them to take a lot of abuse and to be depleted year after year.”

As a result, more than 2,000 household wells went dry over the last three years in California, many in low-income communities of color. Temporary water supplies, including bottled water, had to be brought in.

“We’re not out of a drought,” says Susana De Anda, executive director of the Community Water Center, an environmental justice organization in the Central Valley. “In California, the human right to water was passed in 2012. Unfortunately to this day, many Californians don’t have that reality, and it’s important to recognize that.”

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This winter, a new effort is underway to use some of the floodwaters to fill aquifers. California is also in the process of implementing a new groundwater law, intended to get over-pumping under control. Water users are currently writing plans for keeping groundwater use in balance with supply, but they won’t be fully implemented until 2040.

“Over the years, pretty consistently, California has been using a lot more water than its surface water and groundwater system can supply,” Fogg says. “So that has to change.”

#2 – California’s other water source is still in drought

Most of California’s major cities exist today because their water is delivered from hundreds of miles away. In Southern California, that distance is thousands of miles, because the region uses water from the Colorado River.

A two-decades long drought has hit the Colorado River hard, causing its massive reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, to plummet. Climate change is shrinking the snowpack that feeds the river, and the seven states that use it have long made claim to more water than is available on average.

Those states are now in emergency negotiations over cutbacks to their water supply, but are struggling to agree. With some of the oldest water rights on the river, California has seniority and is technically last in line for cuts. But its water supply will still be impacted. Many Southern California cities have been working on conserving and recycling water locally, so they’re less dependent on faraway supplies.

“We just have to get better at managing the more limited resources that we have there, and that means figuring out how to share a smaller pool of water than what we’ve been using up till now,” says Ellen Hanak, director of the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California.

#3 – The next drought is coming…

Cue the John Steinbeck quote – it’s easy to forget about the dry times once the rains come. But drought will return.

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“We always have to be ready,” Hanak says. “Drier times could come again as soon as next year.”

As the climate gets hotter, California’s extremes are expected to get more extreme. That means droughts will be drier, putting even greater strain on the state’s water supply.

After the last major drought ended in California in 2017, some water conservation behavior seemed to stick. Water use didn’t rebound to pre-drought levels, because some residents made lasting changes, like replacing water-hungry lawns and swapping for more efficient fixtures and appliances.

Still, experts warn that keeping a drought-mindset can only help California weather future challenges. So there’s a risk in acting like drought is a thing of the past. Saving water now could help keep reservoirs fuller, a safe bet in a state where next year’s winter storms are never guaranteed.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    This is just another reason why people are leaving California. All this rain should have resulted in the drought being over for years to come, but in “Communist” California, that could never happen. Many of the people leaving the once Golden state are Republicans or Conservatives. Sadly, they are often replaced by illegal aliens and homeless. That’s why you can’t solely look at the numbers.

    It used to be people would ask me, “Are you thinking of leaving California?”

    Now the question has become, “When are you leaving California?”

    It’s almost a given that if you believe in fair elections, putting law-abiding citizens ahead of criminals, having a reasonable state tax system, sweeping away homeless camps on public or private property, arresting illegal aliens who invaded our country, you have to leave California. But we call can’t move to Texas, Florida and Tennessee!

  2. Paul Hillar says

    If you control food, water, gas, electricity and any other needs of the people, you can control them! This is how communists think, the part they don’t think about, is the rising up and complete annihilation of said oppressor’s! Only when they are torn from power, will the others thinking of trying it, hopefully think twice!

  3. With a record 40% of California’s budget going to vote enhancing Social Services, the rush of incoming dependents will increasingly displace the outgoing tax payers. The first test of this democrat dementia is happening later this year as the budget shortfall redistribution process makes decisions on who gets the short end of the stick. Has anyone seen an infrastructure improvement anywhere?
    The Marxist miscreants in charge have a hard decision. Slow the flow of unskilled non producers or increase taxes on the already overtaxed fleeing producers. With recession looming the golden goose will be far less inclined to get plucked.
    The fact that California’s ample water supply has been made unpredictable, by a clueless political party, is just one of the many reasons our abundant state is inexcusably in free fall.

  4. John Turnacliff says

    I researched this last year and found that in the last 50 years (since 1970) only 1 dam has been built in
    CA (1979) while the population has gone from 20M to 40M. You do the math.

  5. As long as the low IQ keep voting for democrats your going to have problems. These people may be our fellow citizens? But I would say they are the problem. It think they call it stupid.

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