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Stories from the valley

Don’t get ‘Trumped’ by the drought merchants

Contributed by Tim Johnson

“Trumped – verb: to attempt to sway opinion by making loud and audacious statements loosely based on reality”

Driving in from the Sierra Foothills this morning, I turned my wipers on high. It was fantastic to see the rain really coming down. The hard, wet splats on the windshield made me wonder at the shear force of nature. I also considered again the inclination of some to make audacious statements based loosely on reality.

A month ago I wrote a post comparing the sentiment of the media and many people to the facts of the rainy season to date. Since that time the amount of snow and rain we have received has only gotten better.

Here is an update:

  • Snow pack – ski reports report snow levels of 4 to 9 ½ feet
  • Rainfall – rainfall totals across the state are above average
  • Folsom Lake – has risen nearly 30 feet

Listen to the drought merchants, however, and you wouldn’t know that we are just beginning the El Nino rain cycle here in California or that most meteorologists are calling for above normal rains through March and even further into Spring.

Instead we are seeing a redefinition of drought in order to continue the arm waiving even as we pull out our umbrellas and navigate the puddles in the parking lot. Somehow for the drought to be over we must immediately make up all of the rain that hasn’t fallen for the last 4 years. This is absurd.

Rice fields and farm lands near Sutter CA., home workshop, Monday, January 4, 2016. Photo Brian Baer

I agree that there are long–term impacts of the four years of drought. Scientists call it a hydrologic drought. It is the understanding that many years of low rain can cause impacts on ground water, reservoir levels and stream flows. It also understands that it may take a while for these conditions to right themselves. This is normal.

Why then ramp up the rhetoric when it is actually raining and snowing at normal or above normal levels? There are many reasons and not all of them transparent.  I would offer as an alternative not to allow ourselves to get ‘Trumped’, as we do the reasonable thing and wait until the end of the wet season to determine what is fact and what is not.


1- California Snow Report


3- Department of Water Resources