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A wet winter is giving the Central Coast a boost out of the drought

A wet winter is giving the Central Coast a push to get out of a drought
Posted at 6:22 PM, Mar 02, 2023

California is looking very different than it did just six months ago. In Sept. 2022, the whole state was in a drought and both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties were seeing severe, extreme and exceptional drought.

Fast forward to today and most of the state is ranging from no drought to moderate drought and only some spots of severe drought.

KSBY News Meteorologist Vivian Rennie shares what this means for the Central Coast.

“It all really comes down to exactly how much rain we saw on the Central Coast and how much was able to stay, so those really high impact storms where a lot of rain comes down in just a little bit of time, a lot of it can't be absorbed into the ground, and we've had a few like that,” Rennie explained. “The really impactful ones are those ones that last days on end with kind of slow rain continuing and really adding up, and then it can all be really absorbed into the ground, taken into those aquifers.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest numbers show a shift in California.

Comparing the Golden State from Sept. 6, 2022, to Feb. 28, 2023, you can see that 16% of California is out of the drought.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties previously saw severe drought on the coast, extreme drought in coastal valleys and inland areas, and the deep interiors were in an exceptional drought. Today, we’re only seeing a strip of abnormally dry conditions inland.

“Both six months ago and now, those aquifers are still really low, so even though we are coming out of those drought stages, we have been using a lot of water for the aquifers, not just this year, not just last year, but for decades, so it's going to take a while to really regain those,” Rennie said.

The last time both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties were drought-free was Nov. 17, 2020.

Brent Burchett, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, tells KSBY News that farmers are cautiously optimistic.

“This is the time of the year we're supposed to be getting rain and everybody likes to see sunshine, but we need more rain. We need consistent, slow rains,” Burchett said. “Even though the drought index has definitely improved, our groundwater levels are still in decline, so we need more rain in March. We could use it every week.”

“As we think about those December storms back in 2021, we saw a really abnormally wet December, but then we had about seven months of pretty much no rain here on the Central Coast at all,” Rennie added. “A long, dry stretch like that could be really detrimental, could put us back in those extreme and exceptional drought conditions, so it's important to conserve even now. ”

The National Drought Mitigation Center has some tips to conserve water. For example, using low-flow toilets to growing plants that are native to your area. For more tips, click here.

Burchett said local farmers are using technology to make irrigation systems more efficient.