Environment & Science

Wet start of rainy season respite in California drought

File: An umbrella is shared as rain pelts downtown Sacramento, Calif., Friday, March 4, 2016.
File: An umbrella is shared as rain pelts downtown Sacramento, Calif., Friday, March 4, 2016.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Amid a wet start to California's rainy season, and some mending of Californians' backsliding ways on water conservation, the advice of the state's drought czar: Relax and enjoy the rain. For now.

"Celebrate and be happy about it. These last few years...I practically kiss each raindrop," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board. The board will release Californians' latest monthly water-use figures Tuesday under the state's nearly three-year drought emergency.

Northern Californians have had plenty of opportunity the past month to enjoy the sight and sound of raindrops pelting windows. Northern California, where most of the main reservoirs are, has logged an unusually wet October. San Francisco is ending the month with three times normal rainfall for the period, and Sacramento, five times, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Marcus said the latest water figures, for September, will show conservation by households and other non-agricultural consumers has stabilized. In August, water-use figures showed conservation efforts by Californians had dropped off by a third, alarming water officials.

California by 2015 was marking the driest four-year period in its history. In April 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory 25 percent conservation by cities and towns. After near-normal precipitation in the north over the 2015-16 winter rainy season, the state lifted the statewide conservation order earlier this year. Currently, just one-fifth of the state remains in the most severe category of drought, in the south. That compares to nearly half the state at this time last year.

In January, the water board is due to take stock of the state of drought and Californians' conservation. Options then include re-imposing some statewide conservation requirement, if needed, Marcus said.