California is now drought-free, monitor says. Wait, didn’t that happen 2 years ago?

Thanks to a wet winter across the state, the entirety of California is free of drought for the first time since 2011, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Thursday update.

Don’t confuse that with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2017 announcement that the statewide drought had officially ended. The drought officially began with Brown’s declaration of a state of emergency in January 2014.

This week’s news comes from the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest map of California, which shows “abnormally dry” conditions in small pockets along the state’s Oregon and Mexico borders (making up just over 6.5 percent of the state), but no drought-level conditions in the Golden State.

The map uses a scale with six drought intensities: “none,” and then D0-D4, with D0 denoting “abnormally dry” and D1-D4 indicating drought conditions of increasing magnitude.

The data, gathered Tuesday and published Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, illustrates how rapidly California’s water health has healed with January and February’s heavy rain and snowfall.

By the end of December, 75 percent of the state was still in drought stages D1-D4, according to the monitor. That figure shrank to 0.6 percent by March 5.

California hadn’t been clear of drought conditions since December 2011.


The U.S. Drought Monitor is maintained by the National Drought Mitigation Center at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in partnership with NOAA.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.