Precipitation has been above average this year and many state reservoirs are nearly full. But the long-term concerns that politicians and water districts have harped on for years aren't going away.
LOS ANGELES - Late spring storms smothered the Sierra in snow. The state's biggest reservoir is nearly full. Precipitation across much of California has been above average. By standard measures, California's three-year drought is over.
"From a hydrologic standpoint, for most of California, it is gone," said state hydrologist Maury Roos, who has monitored the ups and downs of the state's water for 50 years.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't lifting his drought declaration. Los Angeles isn't ending its watering restrictions and Southern California's major water wholesaler isn't reversing delivery cuts. Despite months of rain and snow and rising levels in the state's major reservoirs, water managers aren't ready to celebrate or make the drought's end official.
Caution, politics and a changing water landscape are all at play.
"The concern is, if we return to a dry year next year we're in trouble" said Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), one of the Legislature's water policy experts. "But you also have to wonder if the drought isn't also a convenient political tool sometimes — especially in an election year."
The Colorado River Basin, a significant water source for the Southland, remains stuck in a long-term drought. Environmental restrictions on pumping water from Northern California will continue to reduce exports to the south. Both are cause for caution.
On the political side, an expensive water bond made its way onto the November ballot with the help of images of shrinking reservoirs and parched fields in the Central Valley.
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