California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) has backed moves by the US’s science and forecasting agency to improve rainfall predictions, as the drought in the state continues.
A drought emergency was declared in California in January 2014, yet the state looks set for another summer of water shortages this year. Almost 2,000 wells across the state are critical or dry, and more than 1,400 wildfires have been reported this year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this month published a report outlining how it would seek to help relevant authorities prepare for severe water shortages in future.
The NOAA said it had identified a need to improve seasonal predictions; build full natural flow water resources modelling; enhance internal co-ordination of drought services; and design environmental monitoring projects on sub-regional scales.
DWR deputy drought manager Jeanine Jones said better sub-seasonal and seasonal precipitation forecasting was a long-sought goal.
She called for up to 60 days’ notice of when atmospheric river storms – known as drought-busters – would occur in California.
“Achieving that breakthrough would be a remarkable advance in forecasting skill,” she said. “Knowing if 2016 will be wet or dry would be extremely useful for drought response and recovery actions.”
NOAA deputy under secretary for operations Michael Devany said: “As the nation prepares for more weather and climate extremes, unprecedented actions to safeguard water – such as those seen in California – will become more commonplace.
“NOAA must stay ahead by developing new tools and refining existing ones to meet new demands.”
Work started this month on a project to build a temporary drought barrier on West False River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This is designed to stop saltwater contaminating water supplies in California.
The 230m-wide rock barrier will span the river, allowing limited water flow upstream and downstream, depending upon tides.