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What you need to know about drought, water, and fire danger in the Coachella Valley

Riverside County is in severe to extreme drought conditions. Strong winds and dry conditions elevate fire danger. Through Thursday, A First Alert Weather Alert Day is in effect for strong winds that will keep fire danger elevated.

Desert Water Agency shared information Wednesday about drought conditions in California and the Coachella Valley. They described how the agency is preparing. “California does have very unpredictable water patterns and we need to be prepared for that unpredictability,” said Vicki Petek, with Desert Water Agency.

“In this century, more than half of the years have been a declared drought or a dry year,” said Jeanine Jones with the Department of Water Resources. Meaning, we are seeing more persistent long term dry conditions. Conditions for the Coachella Valley are not in emergency drought conditions. Riverside County is not among the 41 other counties under a emergency drought. Imported water and groundwater are important components of the Coachella Valley water supply. "Groundwater is a very important component of our water supply,” said Zoe Rodriguez Del Rey, the water resources manager with Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD). Rodriquez said there are two aquifer systems that the region relies on for potable water. There is the smaller Mission Creek Sub-basin and extending from the intersection of I-10 and Highway 111 down to the Salton Sea is the Indio Sub-basin.

Coachella Valley drought conditions

Across the state, dry conditions mean more fuel for fires, especially when winds increase and temperatures increase. “We are not seeing precipitation reach reservoirs because the run off is depleted by soil moisture and warm temperatures,” said Jones.

Current map of drought conditions

There are six stages of a water shortage contingency plan. Currently, the region is in stage one. “When you look at stages five and six, this is extreme circumstances here. This is something I would anticipate due to some sort of natural disaster or malevolent act," said Ashley Metzger, outreach and conservation manager with Desert Water Agency. California is in near two of dry conditions, if the state reaches into year three, statewide actions might become necessary. Living in the desert a one size fits all conservation approach across the state does not work. “The idea of enhanced water shortage contingency plans is that they are appropriate region by region and agency by agency to determine if actions are necessary,” said Metzger.

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Taban Sharifi

Taban Sharifi is a Meteorologist and Reporter with KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News & Weather Leader. Learn more about Taban here.

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