As Highland voters ponder who should represent them on local water districts in the Nov. 6 election, there’s good news, bad news and the annual mystery of El Niño.

The good news: Most California reservoirs were storing near or above-average levels of water heading into the 2019 water year, which began Oct. 1.

Not so good: Southern California ended up with half or less than half of average annual precipitation, according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

As of April 1, the snowpack was 58 percent below average. That was a dramatic drop from the previous water year, when the snowpack was 59 percent above average.

“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,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in her annual report titled, “Hot and Dry Conditions Return.”

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.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says things are fairly neutral in the tropical Pacific Ocean as a “La Niña-ish cloud/rain pattern” is dissipating. It cautiously predicts a 50 to 55 percent chance of El Niño conditions this fall, climbing to a 65 percent chance when winter begins on Dec. 21.

Warmer water in the tropics could mean more precipitation in California.

But we can’t count on that.

We’ve been impressed this year by the dramatic actions by our local districts to expand storage in the Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin. And the groundbreaking of the Sterling Natural Resoures Center, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, is certainly a reason to celebrate.

 This week’s edition profiles 13 candidates for five seats representing the East Valley Water District and three divisions of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. We urge voters to lean toward experience. Water is a complicated issue and our drought is far from over.

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