Is the rain easing California's drought?

SYLMAR, Calif. All this rain is certainly helping California's ongoing drought situation, but is it enough?

Those who have been tracking all of the rain and the snow that we've had in the month of December say it's just too soon to tell if we'll have a wetter than average winter.

In the Sierra Nevadas, the snowpack is providing reason for cautious optimism. The California Department of Water Resources says the water content is 198 percent of normal for this time of year, compared to just 85 percent last year.

"So even though we're starting out with a pretty phenomenal snowpack, come April 1st, it may not be so good," said Frank Gehrke, Dept. of Water Resources.

This is the second wettest December on record for Los Angeles, but climatologists say that doesn't mean a wet winter is on tap. Eighteen of the last 29 "La Nina" weather events have brought normal rainfall amounts. But the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is hopeful.

"We're very cautiously optimistic about the fact that this has given us an opportunity, with the recent rainstorm and snow packs, to fill some of our storage reserves," said Debra Man, Metropolitan Water District chief operating officer.

Man says Diamond Valley Lake, for example, was less than half full six months ago; now it's 80 percent full, but she says we still have a 10-year drought from the Colorado River. And a federal order to save an endangered fish limits how much water can be pumped from the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. The message to the 19 million Southern Californians who rely on the Water District: You still need to conserve.

"Every acre foot or every gallon of water that they save through conservation is water we can now put into our reservoirs for that valuable storage reserve," said Man.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert said the rainfall in the next three months will be the most important and the same goes for the snowpack. If it looks good by March 1 and April 1, then the Department of Water Resources says that it will feel more confident about our water supplies for the spring and summer.

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