Despite rain, water officials say we're still in historic drought

Across the Bay Area, people marvel at a historically wet and early storm, while wondering if it will move the drought needle.

Short answer, no.

"We would need about six more of these storms over the year for us to catch up," said Professor Alison Bridger of the San Jose State University Dept. of Meteorology & Climate Science.

Such repeats are unlikely, says Bridger, noting steady, consistent storms are needed.

"This is a beginning but it's no guarantee we're going to have a wet year by any stretch of the imagination."

That's why water districts will stick with their water conservation measures.

"This storm is a big deposit into our account that was running low," said Emma Detwiler, Communications Manager for the Marin Municipal Water District.

The MMWD supplies almost 200,000 customers in central and southern Marin County.

Three-quarters of its water comes from rainfall with the remainder from the Russian River in Sonoma County.

Across the system's seven reservoirs, the downpour raised levels from a paltry 32 percent capacity to 43 percent, but still well below the pre-drought average for this time of year: 67 percent.

So as planned, customers must stop watering their yards, except by hand, in December.

In fact, the district is asking them to turn off all irrigations systems now.

"Those practices that became habit the last two years, we need to continue them," said Detwiler.

"We don't know when the next dry year is coming, we need to be prepared, and conservation is the new normal for us in Marin and throughout California."

MMWD is also moving ahead, planning for a water pipeline to run over the Richmond -San Rafael Bridge to tie Marin's system to more sources.

"We need to diversify, we need to be prepared and expand where our water comes from so we can be more resilient in the face of these longer drier droughts," said Detwiler.

Among those enjoying the trails on the Mt. Tamalpais watershed Monday, nothing could dim the joy of seeing flowing, gurgling, water.

"It was a puddle only a week ago, so dry we were worried about fire, a whole different mindset," said Kris Stocker of Larkspur, biking at Phoenix Lake.  

"It's miraculous , it's October and it never happens in October like this."

Some visitors remarked on their backyard buckets collecting two feet of water during the storm, but admit such an extreme is also unsettling.

SEE ALSO: Astounding rainfall measurements make storm one of Bay Area's biggest ever

"Having these unusual events in October, it's just like all the wildfires, it's a wake-up call that the climate has really changed and it's changing day by day," said Larry Minikes of San Rafael.

Many water customers are realistic about the long-term prospects of emerging from drought.

"It's a good start to the year so hopefully we get a lot more rain and a lot more snow, but we'll still conserve," said Will Hawthorne of San Rafael.

Enjoying the moment was enough for most.

"With all the waterfalls gushing, it looks tropical, and people are smiling, so excited, it's just so good to see the water back," said August Whitaker, of San Rafael.

"This is a little bit of a flash in the pan and it's great, it's a start, but who knows if it's going to continue."