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Rain not enough to end three-year drought; farmers not complaining
The bright red jacket of a pedestrian, who appears oblivious to Tuesdays rain, complements the equally bright motley autumn colors of the trees along West Center Street near the Civic Center. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

In drought-stricken California, nobody is crying the blues because it’s raining. The prevailing wet weather, however, is not enough cause for celebration – not for farmers, not for residents whose lawns have have turned brown due to watering restrictions – and everybody else, for that matter, since drought is leaving no one unaffected.

But with an extremely parched earth, thanks to the three-year drought that shows no sign of abating at the present time, every little drop of rain is giving farmers a ray of hope that there are more rainy days ahead.

“This is great! I love it!” said Butch Rothlin with a laugh as he was feeding his cows in the rain late Tuesday afternoon.

But his laughter was not one of satisfaction that meant his worries are over. “No, this is just a drop in a bucket, but I’ll take what I can get,” he said in a somber tone.

The rain is helping the winter crops grow – oats, hay, and sileage – plus, to a small degree, “it’s helping replenish the ground water table,” he said.

Farmers, like Rothlin who, with wife Rose, farm several hundred acres around the South San Joaquin County area, have been hit hard in their pocketbooks because they have been supplementing their irrigation needs with well water. It’s costing them several thousand dollars that normally they don’t have to pay for rental pumps. Under normal winter conditions, they don’t have to irrigate in January. But in January of this year, many farmers including the Rothlins, were forced to irrigate using water wells so as not to lose their crops. His alfalfa fields “were like desert in the springtime,” Rothlin said.

The good news is that “we’re in a rainy pattern,” said forecaster Karl Swanberg with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

But there’s bad news as well counteracting that small silver lining. Following the rain showers on Monday and through Tuesday night, and while there were more rain Wednesday through the evening, “further out during the week through the early part of the weekend” are chances of rain showers – chance of scattered rain showers on Thursday, slight chance of rain showers on Friday and Saturday, and partly to mostly cloudy on Sunday. No rain is expected on Monday.

Tuesday’s rainfall during the 24-hour preceding ending at 2 p.m. in the Stockton Airport weather service was just 1.0 inch of precipitation. The normal for December for Stockton is 2.22 inches of rain.

But all things considered, “We definitely had a good rain today,” Swanberg noted.

The Bay Area and Livermore fared better as far as the numbers were concerned, he added. Livermore had 1.31 inches of rain, San Francisco at 1.51 inches.

“The Bay Area did a little bit better. You, in San Joaquin, did better than Sacramento,” which received just a half-inch of rain during the same period, Swanberg said.

Still, all that is good news considering, “We’ve had roughly a three-year deficit of water,” he said, with that deficit still ongoing.

“One or two (rain) events is not going to change, at least, the near-term situation, but every bit of rain helps,” he stated.