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Stories from the valley

Squinting hard to see the glass half empty

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe it’s just the need to fill the news hole. Lately it feels like there have been more negative stories about the rainy season than would seem to pass scrutiny.

Between Meridian and Sutter CA Monday, December 14, 2015. Photo Brian Baer

Here are the facts:

  • Ski resorts in the Sierras opened before Thanksgiving for the first time since 2004 1
  • Current snow pack levels range from 2 to 4 feet2
  • Folsom Lake has hit its low and is now beginning to fill 3
  • Every meteorologist I can find is clear – El Niño is coming and its likely to run January -March

Between Meridian and Sutter CA Monday, December 14, 2015. Photo Brian Baer

Why then the constant cry about below average rainfall, that more drought action is necessary and – my favorite – one wet year won’t end the drought?

Two motivations are likely driving this discussion.

The first is understandable. After four years of dry weather, brown lawns and lost crops, we all understand that drought is serious and equally serious solutions are needed. Proposition 1 passed with a strong majority of the state’s voters. Most expect to see more reservoirs and more water stored for the next drought. That is what we voted for and this is what is expected. So the first response is understandable. It comes from a place of ongoing concern.

The second motivation is far less virtuous though no less human. It is about a last ditch effort to use the drought to advance old agendas on water use in California. With looming rains and even flooding, the press to extend the argument about the need for continued conservation, more regulation and more control is accelerating.

While the actions are understandable, even if the motivation is not, they fail to provide the average person in the state what they seek – what they voted on last year – sensible, balanced solutions to the state’s lack of investment in water storage.

So lets get off the rhetoric and focus our energies on making sure we are not in the same and real half full glass the next time we face crippling drought.


1 – Auburn Journal, November 26, 2015

2 – California Snow Report December 14, 2014

3 – Department of Water Resources, Data Exchange Center, December 2014