Before we get into what is happening as the rain falls, let’s look at what happens to the ground during a drought. Soils naturally carry moisture, this moisture spaces out soil particles while also holding them together. As the soil dries out, the space once occupied by the moisture is lost and the soil shrinks. When thinking of drought, an image of cracked barren soil likely comes to mind. Those cracks are formed because of shrinkage due to loss of moisture. This soil shrinkage can cause problems like cracking in homes and infrastructure as structures settle with the drying soil.
Now the rain or snow has started falling, how does this affect the soil? Because the moisture has been lost and the soil has compacted, there is no longer space in the soil for the water to enter. If you would like to see this visualized check out the YouTube video linked below1. Because the ground can absorb less water because of compaction, there is an increase in runoff and a decrease in groundwater recharge. Each has knock-on effects. Increased runoff increases the risk of flooding, and while flooding may be a large quantity of water, it isn’t water that will stay when the weather is dry. Decreased groundwater recharge means less water is in storage when dry weather creates a cycle of increasing water scarcity.
Some good news: precipitation levels are above average for California2. While this is a reprieve, it doesn’t solve the problem. California reservoirs are still below average, especially in the agricultural south of the state.3 This also doesn’t account for the decreased recharge that aquifers are seeing. California needs long-term solutions for its water problems, such as industrial, and Oil and Gas water reuse. IX Water is working to be part of the solution to California’s long-term water problems and you can help through our crowdfunding campaign. Find out more about our mission: