Drought conditions in San Luis Obispo County have continued to improve as local lakes keep filling up with runoff from the December downpours.
Most of the county is now experiencing “moderate” drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The eastern-most area of San Luis Obispo County along the border of Kern County is facing “severe” drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor said in its latest data release on Thursday. The U.S. Drought Monitor compiles data through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Those categories are the first two most severe levels of drought out of five levels total, and are one level above “abnormally dry” conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor says.
Previously, in late December, most of the county was experiencing “severe” drought conditions while the eastern-most area was in “extreme” drought conditions.
SLO County lake levels rising
Although it has not rained since the start of the year, drought conditions have likely further improved because local reservoir levels continued to rise.
Lake Nacimiento in northern San Luis Obispo County has seen the greatest increase in capacity after the December rains.
On Dec. 13, before the heaviest rains began, the lake was at 9% capacity, according to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.
As of Thursday, the popular recreation lake sits at 29% — more than triple its capacity from just three weeks ago. In that time, the lake has gained 6,280 acre-feet of water or a little more than 2 billion gallons.
Santa Margarita Lake was at 55.2% capacity on Dec. 13 and has since risen to 63.1% capacity, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department.
And Lopez Lake northeast of Arroyo Grande has seen a small increase in capacity from 28.5% on Dec. 13 to 30.3% as of Thursday, county public works department data show.
The rise in lake levels may be celebrated by boaters and other lake recreational users, but does not mean the drought locally and statewide is over quite yet.
Most water restrictions are likely to stay in place until more rain comes and fills the lakes up more, according to local water purveyors.
“It’s a good sign; it’s a good start,” Shane Taylor, Arroyo Grande’s water utilities manager, told The Tribune in a December interview. “And we hope this rain continues.”