Monterey County Farm Bureau

Drought Monitor

Precipitation amounts from the Pacific weather systems that moved across the West this week were patchy and not enough to erase months of deficits. Half an inch to locally 2 inches fell across coastal areas and coastal ranges of Oregon, Washington, and northern California; in the Sierra Nevada; northern and central Rockies; and Great Basin ranges. Rainshadow areas and valleys, and much of the Southwest, received little to no precipitation. There were minor contractions of D4 in New Mexico and D0 in Idaho, but worsening dry conditions prompted expansion of drought and abnormal dryness in several western states. D1-D3 expanded along the northern California coast, D0-D2 expanded in the Pacific Northwest, and D3 expanded in western New Mexico. In California, the Marin Municipal Water District board unanimously approved mandatory restrictions for its 195,000 customers in south and central Marin County which would take effect on May 1. The goal was to curb overall district-wide water use by 40%. The potential for water shortages in Marin County was so high that the Marin Municipal Water District was talking with East Bay officials about building a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to bring water into the county if the upcoming winter is similarly dry as the past two. Such a measure was used during the 1976-77 drought. Record low reservoir levels contributed to California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaiming a regional drought emergency for the Russian River watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. A super bloom of lupine covered parts of the Folsom Lake lakebed in the Beeks Bight nature area in Granite Bay as historically low rainfall left the lake unusually low. Folsom Lake is at 37% of capacity and 50% of the historical average for April 27, according to the California Department of Water Resources Data Exchange Center. Shallow wells were going dry in the San Joaquin Valley, while Tulare County ranchers were culling cattle for sale months earlier than usual and were considering idling row crops to leave water for higher-value permanent crops like nut trees. The prolonged drought is causing significant die-offs of juniper trees in large areas of central and northern Arizona, according to Forest Service officials. Between 50,000 acres and 100,000 acres of junipers were affected in areas of the Prescott and Kaibab national forests between Paulden and Ash Fork and north of Williams. The cause of death appeared to be water stress, although some insects were observed. Die-offs ranged from 5% to 30% of the tree population, with some pockets of dead junipers up to 15 acres. USDA statistics showed increases in the percentage topsoil moisture short or very short – up to 89% in New Mexico, 70% in California, 69% in Oregon, 61% in Washington, 50% in Utah, and 32% in Idaho. According to media reports, the Biden-Harris administration announced the formation of an Interagency Working Group to address worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers, Tribes, and communities impacted by ongoing water shortages. The Working Group will be co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to build upon existing resources to help coordinate across the federal government, working in partnership with state, local, and Tribal governments to address the needs of communities suffering from drought-related impacts. The Working Group will work to identify immediate financial and technical assistance for impacted irrigators and Tribes.

As a comparison, below is the Drought Monitor Map from the high-point of the four-year drought:

Updated 4/29/2021