Below Average Precipitation for Water Year 2018


Rain clouds above Lake Oroville

Heavy rain clouds cover the hillsides surrounding Lake Oroville in Butte County, California.

SACRAMENTO – A new water year begins today and Californians will be eyeing the weather forecasts to see what kind of year it will be. Despite below-average precipitation in water year 2018, most California reservoirs are storing near- or above-average levels of water heading into the 2019 water year. 

“California experiences significant variability in seasonal precipitation,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The recent record-breaking drought was followed by the second-wettest year on record in 2017, followed by another dry year. Climate change models predict extreme variability in precipitation to be the new norm, which requires us to be ever more vigilant in our flood and drought preparedness.” 

Today, DWR released its annual water year recap called ,”Water Year 2018: Hot and Dry Conditions Return which highlights key outcomes of the water year, including:

  • Much of Southern California ended up with half or less than half of average annual precipitation.
  • The April 1 statewide snowpack based on over 260 snow courses was just 58 percent of average for water year 2018, a dramatic drop from 159 percent of average for the same date in 2017. 
  • The water year coincided with ongoing warming conditions, setting new records this summer for maximum temperatures in the South Coast region.
  • Water year 2018 is indicative of California’s ongoing transition to a warmer climate, which after years of extreme variability in annual precipitation, resulted in record-breaking wildfires. 

While conditions overall were dry, California experienced sporadic periods of significant precipitation. An atmospheric river event in April brought new records for precipitation, most of which fell as rain and not snow. Though the event was short, it produced the 10th largest flood on the Merced River, impacting Yosemite National Park. This event is a good reminder that floods can happen any year, even during an overall dry one.

The new water year runs from today, October 1, to September 30, 2019 and as always, Californians should be prepared for the possibility for a wet or dry year.


Maggie Macias, Information Officer, Public Affairs, Department of Water Resources

(916) 653-8743 |