Water & Drought

Wet weather pulls SLO County out of a longtime drought — but that might not last long

How January rains helped SLO County’s lakes

Lake and reservoir levels in San Luis Obispo County, California, have increased after the recent storms brought a sizable amount of rain to the Central Coast and the average up to 130 percent for this time of year.
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Lake and reservoir levels in San Luis Obispo County, California, have increased after the recent storms brought a sizable amount of rain to the Central Coast and the average up to 130 percent for this time of year.

For the first time in eight years, San Luis Obispo County is no longer experiencing abnormally dry weather or drought conditions.

A map the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Tuesday shows the county and the entire Central Coast region aren’t experiencing dryness or drought for the first time since 2011.

The Drought Monitor measures drought conditions throughout the country every two weeks on a scale from none to exceptional drought.

Most of California — about 67 percent of the state — is also free of dryness and drought, with a few exceptions to the far north and south and in parts of the Central Valley.

DROUGHT MAP 7 YEARS 2019 copy_Tribune.jpg

The state is still recovering from a devastating five-year drought that began during the winter of 2011-12 and continued until 2017.

California and the Central Coast saw the worst conditions from 2014 to 2016, when at least 94 percent of the state faced a drought at this time in February, according to historical Drought Monitor data.

San Luis Obispo County remained in a state of exceptional drought for years, until the area had its rainiest January in two decades in 2017.

The area dipped back into severe drought conditions after a disappointing rain season in 2018. But an abundance of rain this season brought the county back from its dry spell.

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near Avila Beach has received 14.3 inches of rain since July 2018, which is already more than the 13.45 inches that location got during the entire 2018 rain season, said John Lindsey, a PG&E meteorologist.

Even though conditions have improved markedly during the past three years, the county’s groundwater basins still likely have a ways to go, he said.

And long-range climate models still predict drier than average weather during the next few years.

“Water is really a precious resource,” Lindsey said. “We have to do everything we can to conserve it.”

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, immigration and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She also covers northern San Luis Obispo County city governments and school districts. Lindsey joined The Tribune in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. She’s a native Californian raised in the Midwest and is a proud graduate of two Chicago schools: DePaul University and Northwestern University.


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