Environment & Science

Why Monday's rain showers mean little for the drought

File photo by Neil Kremer via Flickr Creative Commons

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The rain showers Hurricane Norbert brought to L.A. Monday morning may have been a relief to some, but city officials and water experts said that they're unlikely to bring significant relief from the ongoing drought. 

"It certainly doesn't look like this storm is going to bring any significant measure of rainfall and certainly not enough to make any sort of dent in the drought," said Kerjon Lee, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.  

Lee said that the department's rain gauges across the county showed most areas gained under a tenth of an inch to a quarter inch of water in 24 hours. 

"There hasn't been any significant runoff collected in our reservoirs." Lee said. 

Water experts said that dry conditions made it unlikely that the runoff would make into the water table and contribute to the region's water supply system. 

“We are so dry right now that my guess is that most of the water is simply going to soak into the ground," said Nancy Steele, executive director of the Council for Watershed Health.

Brian Sheridan, a spokesman for the Council for Watershed Health, said that the rain was likely too little to trigger the organization's rain monitoring device. 

Matthew King, communications director for Heal the Bay, said that the rainfall totals were too low to wash enough pollution and trash to trigger beach closures. 

Tiny silver linings 

If any water was gained by the rainfall, it was likely to be from conservation decisions made by utilities customers. 

“I think what we can rely on this rain helping is just to irrigate your landscapes,” said Penny Falcon, manager of water conservation policy legislation and grants at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. "Hopefully people have said, 'Oh, it's raining today,' and they're going to shut off their irrigation system and let Mother Nature do her thing," Falcon said.

The storms' greatest value may simply have been allowing Southern Californians to experience an early September rainfall.

George Quirindongo, a part-time mover, has only been in Southern California for about three months. 

"I got my first baptism today with the rain, because I'm from New York," Quirindongo said. "I got my first California rain today. It was magical."