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California drought: 2013 was LA's driest year on record

Water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct flows into the Haiwee Resevoir, which is 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The level of the resevoir fluctuates depending on the season.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
Water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct is part of the reason LA won't have to ration despite the driest year on record.

Well, that was one for the books: 2013 will go down as the driest year on record for downtown Los Angeles since officials began tracking rainfall in 1877.

A meager 3.6 inches fell at the National Weather Service station at USC since last January. That's about half an inch less than the previous record years of 1953 and 1947.

"We will still get by," said Jim McDaniel, a senior assistant general manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

McDaniel says that's because the department still has 2.1 million acre feet of water stored in places like the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir in Hemet and aquifers in parts of the San Joaquin Valley.

One acre foot of water is able to sustain two average families in Los Angeles for one year, McDaniel said. He says the supply is enough to get the city through about two more years of parched weather.

"That being said, we still need to use the water that we have wisely in Los Angeles."

For that reason, the LADWP plans to keep in place water restrictions dating back to 2010. Those rules mean that odd numbered houses should only water lawns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and even numbered houses should water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

People are also expected to curb their water use between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the weather tends to be the hottest.

Mark Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in California, says things look dry for LA over the next few days.

As for 2014, he says the state isn't being influenced by strong El Niño or La Niña weather patterns. This neutral condition, sometimes called La Nada, makes any long term rain predictions difficult.

“It’s kind of a give or take," Jackson said. 

Still, he points out that January, February and March are typically when Southern California gets the majority of its rain, so just because it's dry right now doesn't mean next year will be a repeat of the last.

"So there is still hope," Jackson said.