Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Pedestrians walk through downtown San Mateo during Tuesday’s rainstorm.
Even though umbrellas, galoshes and windshield wipers have been put to good use the past few days, weather and water officials stress the urgency of the drought and ask the public to remain steadfast in their conservation efforts.
“Everything helps, but this is definitely not a drought buster,” said Bob Benjamin, forecaster with the National Weather Service. “It may put a few little dents in it, but it definitely won’t break it.”
Lightning, thunder, flooding, hail and snow were reported throughout the Bay Area Tuesday, but none of it has been able to conquer the drought Gov. Jerry Brown declared in January.
California is amid a three-year dry spell and as it only felt a meager 3.38 inches of rainfall last year, 2013 was dubbed the driest year on record.
Water officials have been hopeful the skies will provide through the rest of the “water year,” which runs from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. Although there’s been some recent relief, conservation experts remind the public that conservation continues to be critical.
San Mateo County is most accurately measured at the San Francisco International Airport, which is currently at about 40 percent of normal after having received about 7.57 inches of rain from July 1 through 5 p.m. Monday, said Diana Henderson with the National Weather Service. This time last year, it was at 66 percent of normal, Henderson said.
“We’ve been below normal for the last couple years. We still have a long ways to go and it’s going to be very hard to reach normal by the end of the year. Even with a moderately wet April anticipated,” Benjamin said.
Just as dry are the Sierras. April 1 typically marks the peak of the year’s snowpack and surveyors announced the grim news that California is at just 32 percent of normal, according to the Associated Press.
Even the San Mateo County coastline experienced hail and slight snow at elevations above 3,000 feet during Tuesday’s early-morning hours, Benjamin said.
Cloudy skies and slight showers were expected through Wednesday but it should taper off toward the weekend with temperatures reaching near 70 degrees in some areas by Sunday, Benjamin said.
“It’s definitely an active weather pattern and one we would typically expect this time of year and it’s providing us some much-needed rain. But not enough that it would alleviate the drought situation,” Benjamin said.
With snowpack figures minimal and the rainy season coming to an end, it’s critical to prepare for the coming summer, said Nicole Sandkulla, CEO of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.
“Typically we get the majority of our precipitation from November through March and April begins kind of the tapering off of the rainy season. And then we move into relying upon our storage. That’s why it’s critically important to save as much as we can so we have it available in the fall,” Sandkulla said.
BAWSCA represents the interests of 24 cities and water districts as well as two private utility companies along the Peninsula that purchase wholesale water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which sources from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The SFPUC issued, and BAWSCA supports, a voluntary 10 percent reduction in consumer usage, Sandkulla.
People should always try to conserve water regardless of drought conditions and not be distracted from their efforts during a wet spell such as this, said Mike Utz, a local manager for the California Water Service Company.
“Even though we’re seeing the rain we’re seeing, I would definitely say we’re going to continue to save water. It’s a precious resource,” Utz said.
All of the conservation techniques such as turning off the faucet when brushing, only washing full laundry and dish loads still stand. But one way to make full use of wet weather is to be mindful of one’s irrigation systems, Sandkulla said. Often people set their sprinklers on a timer then forget to turn it off. Letting Mother Nature do her job is “a very large opportunity for water savings right now,” Sandkulla said.
So even with rain-spotted windows and bright umbrellas in tow, Sandkulla reminds residents to adhere to conservation practices.
“I think it’s human nature to forget when the hills are starting to turn green and two months ago they were all brown. But we’ve had a very very long dry spell so just a few rain showers doesn’t bring us back to normal,” Sandkulla said. “So we definitely need to continue to conserve because we don’t know how long this rain spell will last and we definitely can go straight into a dry spell and a hot summer.”
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106