After recent storms drenched California in much-needed rain and snow, the latest Drought Monitor finally showed a welcomed shift in drought conditions. Currently roughly one-third of the state is in exceptional drought, down from 55 percent last week.
Even with the improvements, NASA released a new analysis reporting California will need 11 trillion gallons of water – roughly 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir – to recover from the oppressive drought. CNN calculates it’s more than 14,000 times the amount of water it would take fill the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
"It takes years to get into a drought of this severity, and it will likely take many more big storms, and years, to crawl out of it," Jay Famiglietti, with the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., said in a new release here.
Airborne Snow Observatory principal investigator Tom Painter of JPL adds the "2014 snowpack was one of the three lowest on record and the worst since 1977, when California's population was half what it is now."
Painter explains, "Besides resulting in less snow water, the dramatic reduction in snow extent contributes to warming our climate by allowing the ground to absorb more sunlight. This reduces soil moisture, which makes it harder to get water from the snow into reservoirs once it does start snowing again."
Alan Haynes, service coordination hydrologist at the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento, told to Bloomberg in a report here that it would take at least five storms equally as powerful as the latest to pummel the state to replenish deficits left by the drought.
“We need a much wetter-than-normal season to recover,” Haynes said. “If we don’t get the precipitation up in the mountains, we don’t address the long-term supply issues that we’re facing.”
The Department of Water Resources estimates the state would need about 75 inches of rain by the end of the water year on Sept. 30, 2015, to end the drought. Read, “What the precipitation will and won't do for California.”