California recorded one of its driest water years, receiving just half the amount of precipitation that falls during an average 12 months.
A water year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. After adding up precipitation measurements recorded at its different stations during the time period, the Western Regional Climate Center calculated that 11.87 inches of rain and snow fell in California over the 2021 water year, the Los Angeles Times reports. This is well below the yearly average of roughly 23.58 inches.
The California Department of Water Resources said this is the second driest year on record, and the last time the state experienced such little rain and snowfall was in 1924. California saw record heat this summer, and more than 87 percent of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has asked residents to reduce their water use by 15 percent before the state imposes mandatory restrictions.
Only two of California's major reservoirs are at or above their average storage level, and one of Los Angeles' major water sources, Lake Mead in Nevada, has been declining over the last two decades. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study found that because of warmer temperatures caused by climate change, precipitation and melted snowpack are evaporating faster than in previous years.
"We've already had this dry year, and we're in a drought situation, and then trends are that it potentially could be below the low rainfall season again this winter," Jayme Laber, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, told the Times. "All those things add up to not looking good."