Drought in California: When Does It Begin and When Does it End?

by Maurice Roos, (M.ASCE),

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


California recently endured a six-year period of drought. While the public, media and control agencies like simple definitions to classify water conditions, in a state as large and varied as California, it is not wise to place too much reliance on a single broad definition. Because of the natural frequency of dry years, official drought should not be declared often. The water environment is partly artificial and any drought definition needs to include reservoir storage. Eventually, for statewide purposes, a relatively simple definition incorporating reservoir storage and unimpaired runoff was developed. When water conditions improve, thought needs to be given on when to call an end to the drought. This paper will explain the California experience, the criteria in ending the 1987?92 drought, and how a relapse after one good water year into an extremely dry 1994 was handled.

Subject Headings: Droughts | Water shortage | Water storage | Terminology and definition | Reservoirs | Water resources | Runoff | California | United States

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