Flow, river, flow: January marked the end of the drought here in Northern California. Thank multiple atmospheric rivers carrying the equivalent of many Mississippis each, says Hari Mix, an assistant professor of environmental studies and sciences who studies the phenomenon.
Near-empty reservoirs were filled to overflowing, tranquil streams transformed to torrents; witness this scene on the South Yuba River. Some communities were flooded, and mudslides ensued. Snowpack is well over 100 percent normal. On the whole, the news is good, right? Yes, says water expert Ed Maurer, “but it will take several years of above-average rainfall to replenish groundwater reserves.”
Maurer is a professor of civil engineering whose recent work has focused on assessing the impact of climate change on water resources. During five years of drought, “to make up for shortfalls, people pumped groundwater, especially in the Central Valley and the San Joaquin Valley.”
Another Bay Area authority on water suggests we take a page from John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden and try not to repeat this cycle: “And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”