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Regional Drought Update Date
June 23, 2022
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Drought Status Update

California-Nevada Drought Status Update


DEWS Regions:
States:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.

Drought heats up into summer as impacts are widely felt.

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Key Points

  • Precipitation over the last several weeks throughout northern California and Nevada alleviated some fire risk, but did not significantly improve the drought conditions.
  • Streamflows across California and Nevada are forecasted to be below normal, generally 75% of normal or less. Reservoir levels are varied throughout the region, with reservoirs in the Western Sierras at approximately 80% of normal. 
  • Current projections are for a shortage on the Lower Colorado River in 2023, though official forecasts are issued in August. 
  • California statewide emergency water regulations adopted in May went into effect in June. In southern California, the regulations largely consist of limiting outdoor watering to one or two days a week with the potential for a complete ban starting in September. 
  • Drought impacts will continue to intensify and expand given a third dry year. Applying lessons learned from past droughts and drought preparedness is key.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions | June 21, 2022

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts’ assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year. 

California/Nevada conditions as of June 21, 2022:

  • 99.79% of California is experiencing Moderate (D1) to Exceptional (D4) Drought (48.22% in D3, 11.59% in D4)
  • California population in drought: 37,244,591
  • 100% of Nevada is experiencing Moderate (D1) to Exceptional (D4) Drought (37.22% in D3, 21.32% in D4)
  • Nevada population in drought: 2,700,551
U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
99.9%
of California and Nevada are in drought (D1–D4)
59.8%
of California is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
58.5%
of Nevada is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought

Current Conditions

  • Precipitation over the last several weeks has generally totaled 2 inches or less throughout northern California and Nevada, alleviating some of the fire risk, but did not significantly improve the drought conditions; California and Nevada remain in a third year of drought. 
  • Since last year at this time, there have been drought improvements throughout western and eastern California and Nevada and degradation in southeastern California and northern Nevada, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
  • Snow has mostly melted throughout the region. Combined, the Western Sierra reservoirs in California are about 80% of the normal level for this time of year, while Lake Tahoe is less than 50% of its normal level for this time of year. Some of the lowest northern California reservoirs are Shasta (57% of normal), Oroville (61% of normal), and Trinity Lake (35% of normal). 
  • Evaporative demand, the atmospheric influence on the drying of the landscape, over the last two months has been below normal in northern California and Nevada, but above normal (meaning greater drying) throughout much of Southern and Central California and Nevada. 
  • The NOAA National Weather Service's California Nevada River Forecast Center is forecasting below-normal water supply at almost all forecast points. Of the total 75 forecast points, 35 points are below 50% and 37 points are between 50%–70% of normal. The three-year water accumulation for the Central Valley Water Supply Index is expected to be at or near record low. 
  • Dead fuel moistures status has not changed significantly since May and remains at near normal or slightly below throughout much of the region. Recent precipitation events in northern California have kept fire danger (or dead fuel moisture) in check.
  • On March 28, 2022, California Governor Newsom directed the State Water Board to consider adopting an emergency regulation for urban water conservation. On May 24, 2022, the Board adopted an emergency regulation, which went into effect on June 10, 2022. The ​​Emergency Regulation Requirements include no watering for commercial, industrial, and institutional decorative grass and urban water suppliers implementing all Level 2 demand reduction actions.
  • In Southern California, water-saving restrictions began on June 1 and impact dozens of cities and communities in Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties—home to about 6 million people. Restrictions vary by city, but largely consist of limiting outdoor watering to one or two days a week or implementing water budgets for residents. Further, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California stated that “if use doesn’t drop enough in the coming months, or if conditions worsen, a complete ban on outdoor watering could be implemented in September.”
  • Camille Calimlim Touton, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner, gave a statement on June 14 addressing the drought on the Colorado River basin: “According to the May 2022 Most Probable 24-Month Study, the April-July runoff forecast into Lake Powell is 3.80 maf [million acre-feet], or 59 percent of average. Lake Powell’s water surface elevation is projected to end the calendar year at 3,522.94 feet (22 percent full). Lake Mead is projected to reach an elevation of 1,039.92 feet (27 percent full) on December 31, 2022. While not official until the August 2022 24-Month Study, a shortage condition for the Lower Basin is projected in calendar year 2023”. 
  • For more information, check out Living with Drought in Nevada and the California Water Watch.

How is drought affecting your neighborhood? Click to see drought indicators, outlooks, and historical conditions by city, county, and state, as well as sign up for alerts.

View Local Drought Information

U.S. Drought Monitor 52-Week Change Map

Over the past 52 weeks, from June 22, 2021 to June 21, 2022, western and eastern CA and NV have seen drought improvements, while southeastern CA and northern NV have seen degradations.
U.S. Drought Monitor 52-week change map, showing where drought has improved, degraded, or remained the same from June 22, 2021–June 21, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Percent of Normal Precipitation: Water Year & Last 60 Days

Southern Nevada and much of California show less than 70% of precipitation for the water year. Eastern Sierra Nevada and parts of Northwest Nevada have received over 100% normal precipitation.

Northern coastal California and Northern Nevada have all received above 100% precipitation in the last 60 days (April 24-June 22, 2022).
Percent of normal precipitation since the start of Water Year 2022, October 1, 2021–June 21, 2022 (top) and during the 60-day period between April 24–June 22, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

2-Month Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)

Over the last 2 months (through June 12), Southern California and Nevada are showing high EDDI while Northern California and Nevada are showing low EDDI.
Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) for California and Nevada over the last two months. Valid June 12, 2022. EDDI has been shown to be related to wildfire potential. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Western Sierra Reservoir Storage

The reservoir+snowpack are near 80% normal reservoir level for this time of year in the Western Sierra.

n the Lake Tahoe Basin, snowpack plus reservoir total is near 50% of normal for this time of year.
Water storage, a combination of snowpack and reservoir storage, as of June 2022 compared to the 2000–2015 normal in the Western Sierra (top) and the 1981–2010 normal for Lake Tahoe (bottom). Source: CNAP Water Storage Tracking.

 Water Storage: Trinity Lake and Oroville Lake

Time series from Oct 2019 through Oct 2021 showing water stored (thick blue line) in Trinity Lake in millions of acre-feet. Trinity Lake is currently below record low levels.

Time series from Oct 2019 through Oct 2021 showing water stored (thick blue line) in Oroville Lake in millions of acre-feet. Orville is between 10th and 25th percentile levels.
Water stored in Trinity Lake (top) and Oroville Lake (bottom) from the start of the 2020 water year (October 1, 2019). Source: CNAP 2020–2021 Drought Years Reservoir Tracker (visit to see similar graphics and more for 11 major California/Nevada reservoirs). 

Central Valley Water Resources Index

A time series of Central Valley Water Resources Index daily observed volumes and multi-year volume accumulation from Water Year 2020-2022 and forecasted through WY22. The observed peak occurred on October 25, 2021 due to a strong atmospheric river. 3 year accumulated volume is observed and forecasted near record low.
The Central Valley Water Resources Index (WSI) is a proxy for streamflow volume available all along the Sierra in the Central Valley. This time series shows Central Valley WSI daily observed volumes (grey) and multi-year volume accumulation (pink) in thousands of acre-feet from October 1, 2019 (start of Water Year 2020) to June 19, 2022, as well as forecasted near-record 3-year low through the end of Water Year 2022 (September 30, 2022). The observed peak occurred on October 25, 2021 due to a strong atmospheric river. Source: National Weather Service California-Nevada River Forecast Center.

Water Year 2022 Streamflow Volume Forecast

A map of California and Nevada with percentages of the forecasted seasonal volume water supply. Of the 75 forecast points, 35 are less than 50%, and 26 are between 50%-70%.
Forecasted seasonal streamflow volumes for Water Year 2022 relative to normal. Valid June 21, 2022. Source: National Weather Service California-Nevada River Forecast Center

Drought and Climate Outlook

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

NOAA’s ENSO alert system status is currently a La Niña Advisory. Though La Niña is favored to continue through the end of the year, the odds for La Niña decrease into the Northern Hemisphere late summer (52% chance in July–September 2022) before slightly increasing through the Northern Hemisphere fall and early winter 2022 (58%–59% chance). For more information, check out the NOAA ENSO blog.

Subseasonal to Seasonal Drought, Temperature, Precipitation, and Fire Outlooks

The NOAA National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-average temperatures for most of the U.S., including California-Nevada, for July through September. For the same time period, precipitation is forecasted to be equal chances except in those areas impacted by the Monsoon, as an enhanced Monsoon is slightly favored across parts of the Southwest. When extended periods of below-normal precipitation overlap with extended periods of above-normal evaporative demand—which is influenced by above-normal temperatures as well as clear skies, wind speed, and low humidity—fuels can become critically dry, favoring rapidly spreading wildfires. (Read more here from CNAP).

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fire activity increased in May, mostly across the Southwest area, with activity also across portions of California, the southern Great Basin, and southern Colorado. Above-normal temperatures are likely across most of the contiguous U.S. through summer, and critically windy and dry periods are likely to continue through mid-June for the Southwest and southern Great Basin. The North American Monsoon is likely to arrive on time and be robust this summer, but potential early moisture surges during June could result in periods of lightning across the Southwest, Colorado, and the southern Great Basin. Most of the Southwest, southern Great Basin, and southern Colorado is forecast to have above-normal significant fire potential in June, before returning to normal in July. Above-normal significant fire potential is forecast across northern California, with above-normal potential spreading into the southern Sierra and Coast Ranges of southern California in August and September.

More details can be found here

Seasonal Drought Outlook: June 16–September 30, 2022

From June 16 to September 30, 2022, drought is likely to persist across California and Nevada.
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for June 16 to September 30, 2022, showing the likelihood that drought will develop, remain, improve, or be removed. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal (3-Month) Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks

Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for July-August 2022. Odds favor above-normal temperatures across Nevada and California.

Climate Prediction Center 3-month precipitation outlook, valid for July-August 2022. Odds favor equal chances of below- or above-normal temperatures across Nevada and California.
U.S. seasonal temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) outlooks, showing the likelihood of above- or below-normal conditions for July–September 2022. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook: July 2022

National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July 2022, showing that there is above-normal significant fire potential for northern California.
Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July 2022 (issued June 1, 2022). Above-normal significant wildland fire potential (red) indicates a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildland fires will occur.  Source: National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services.

Drought Early Warning Resources

California

Nevada

California-Nevada DEWS

Prepared By

Amanda Sheffield
California-Nevada DEWS Regional Drought Information Coordinator, NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

Julie Kalansky
California Nevada Applications Program (CNAP), Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Special Thanks

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the California-Nevada Applications Program, a NOAA RISA team, and the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute to communicate the current state of drought conditions in California-Nevada based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.