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Despite Rains, California Drought Continues

April 2014
 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
CA drought map
 

SAN RAFAEL, CALIF.—Thanks to some February and March rainstorms, cover crops were in full growth across California’s vineyards in mid-March, but the greenery belied the serious drought the state was experiencing.

The main concern among growers and winemakers as spring began was the risk of a frost and a short supply of water to protect young vines. Bud break or bud swelling had been reported throughout much of the state, yet most of California remained in a severe water deficit, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor service. Nearly all of San Luis Obispo County, which is home to 346 wineries and nearly 30,000 acres of vines, is suffering a category D-4 drought, or “exceptional drought” of historic proportions.

According to the state Department of Water Resources, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is the source for much of the state’s water, totaled only 29% of its April average and was just 31% of normal for early March. The northern Sierra was the driest with just 20% of normal precipitation. At the end of February, the state’s total water storage was at 40,902 acre-feet, or 63% of normal.

There was little hope for any major precipitation as well. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center forecast that most of California would continue to experience drought and above-normal temperatures through the spring and into early summer.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that designated $687 million in bond funds for water and flood control toward drought relief. The majority of that funding would go to cities for water conservation and retention efforts as well as $46 million for emergency aid to those out of work from the drought.

 
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