earth showing path of el nino
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Welcome to 2023! Hope that you and your families had a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Patty Poire President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau

By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau

Starting where I left off in my January 2023 article, the state is continuing to experience a series of powerful rain and snow events. Today as I write, the state is in the middle of the next round of a severe storm that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is stating is the worst so far. This significant atmospheric river event is forecasted to continue to cause flooding. Because there is no natural break between these events, there is no time for the water to recede, and no cleanup can be completed. Questions: did everyone think this possibility of having a “wet” year would never happen again? Was the state going to be in a drought always? Was everyone so focused on a drought that no plans were developed for a wet year? Are we in a position to store this water for future use? Are we looking to recharge the groundwater aquifers? Can the state pivot fast enough from a drought mindset to a wet-year mentality? And if “climate change” is the root of all this (and state staff and legislators say that it is) should there be changes to how the state and federal water projects meet contract obligations? And, as I am writing this, four more of these atmospheric river storms are forecasted through mid-January. 

It appears most believe that a La Niña pattern doesn’t come with rain, but in actuality, when there is a transition from a La Niña to El Niño, storms of this caliber have occurred where the El Niño drives the weather pattern. It happened in the wet winter of 1997-98; El Niño drove the weather pattern. The state continues to explain that they use historical weather patterns to assist in their decision-making, so based on that, we should have been ready for this. There should have been plans to reduce the flooding, and beneficial users of the water should have had plans to take the water. In just one week, the storage capacity difference has changed dramatically (compare Reservoirs Conditions for January 2 and January 8, 2023, at CDEC.”

The weather hasn’t just brought precipitation but has also placed a “white” blanket over the Sierras. DWR conducted the first snow survey on January 3rd, and the manual survey recorded 55.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 17.5 inches. This is 177 percent of the average for the location where the snow survey was taken – Phillips Station. DWR uses this snowpack survey as a critical component of water supply forecasting. Statewide the snowpack is 174 percent of the average on January 3rd. USDA says snowpacks across Nevada and the eastern Sierra are 136% to 258% of their median (see current Statewide Snow Water Content at 

California statewide snowwater content as of January 8, 2023. (click for larger image)

Now, this sounds like a fantastic start to this new water year, similar to last year at this time; however, last year these results were followed by three months of extremely dry conditions, and by April 1st of last year, the survey results at the Phillips Station were the third lowest on record. So, does this mean the State and DWR need to store when there is water and not let one drop go unaccounted? Again, time will only tell if we learned anything from the previous year.

Welcome to 2023, and just maybe, this might be the year known for a return to water deliveries of at least 55% to 65% of contracts. Of course, I would say 100%, but let’s not kid ourselves. 

P.S. I hope you have addressed AB 2183 – “card check bill.” The Kern County Farm Bureau is here to help if you need assistance. 

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