However, the reality is that this rainfall, as welcome as it was, was literally just a drop in the bucket. Many areas of the state, even with this latest rain, are 80 percent below their normal rainfall.
Yet, and quite surprisingly, the state appears to be weathering this drought fairly well. For those who remember, the last time California had a drought actually worse than this one was almost 40 years ago in 1977. Then, as today, virtually the entire state was impacted. But unlike today, very stringent water restrictions – much more severe than any now in place– were impacting residences as well as commercial facilities.
For instance, some households in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, were restricted to 44 gallons of water per person per day…60 gallons less per day than normal usage. Businesses and commercial facilities were asked to reduce water consumption by 57 percent. While many complied, reports after the restriction were lifted found that most were not able to meet the mandated cutbacks.
It was a very difficult period for the state, but, fortunately, more than adequate rainfall in 1978 and 1979 put an end to the drought. Water use soon returned to normal. But just 10 years later, the state was hit with another very dry period, starting about 1986 and lasting until 1991 and now we are in the current drought situation, which has been going on for about four years.
But this time, even if it does get worse, the state’s residents and businesses have and likely will continue to better endure this drought than in the past. There are two key reasons for this:
First, astute public officials and business people realized that droughts are no longer an anomaly in California – and in other parts of the US. They suspect the state will have more droughts of varying degrees of seriousness in years to come.
And secondly, new technologies not available in the 1970s or 1980s have been developed. These innovations not only reduce water consumption but have helped people in California and around the country become much more conscious of their water consumption.