Abnormally warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean in 2015 predicted a strong El Niño event for late 2015 and early 2016, and such events have historically caused elevated levels of rain and snow in California. While the event did bring much-needed precipitation in northern and eastern California, replenishing reservoirs and building snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, southern California ended the winter with lower than average levels of precipitation.
The El Niño winter of 2015–2016 provided California a reprieve from stifling drought, but with the state’s population expected to grow and the threat of severe drought ever-looming, it is clear the state will be dealing with water supply issues for the foreseeable future. Much work remains to be done in California to develop sustainable, long-term water conservation programs. But one of the most important hurdles that has already been overcome is convincing Californians that saving water is important to the future of their state, and is a movement worth embracing.
As the state of California struggles to reduce water use in agriculture, industry, and homes to deal with its current water shortages, a new study suggests that much more of the same is in store for the American Southwest and the Central Great Plains for the remainder of this century.