By Wilson Walker

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Rain has returned to the Bay Area, and not a moment to soon. Rainfall totals are lagging this winter, and it’s becoming a pattern.

“Our reservoirs are at about 26% of their historical average right now for this time of year,” says Mark Gomez with Valley Water. “But if you exclude Anderson, if you take that out of the equation, it’s about 51%.”

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With Anderson Reservoir offline for improvements, Valley Water now has less above ground storage capacity. Given our rainfall totals it’s good to know there is more storage than we can see.

“Even if this ends up as another dry year, we do have plenty of water in our underground storage as we look at our water supply for the year,” Gomez explains.

“So our reservoirs are in OK shape at the moment,” says Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute. “I’m not panicking, no one should panic.”

But this year, so far, is tracking dry, just like last year. Drought is produced by dry years in a sequence so the stakes are rising as we approach the end of January.

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“We need more than the normal amount of rain from here on to the end of March,” Gleick says, “in order to make up for what we haven’t gotten so far,.”

“Everybody in the water community is going to be paying attention over the next few weeks and months to see what the weather may bring just hope for the best in terms of precipitation and snowfall,” Gomez says.

And then there is the longer term trend to consider: A decade in California marked by dry and wet years, often in the extreme, and a pretty consistent lack of normalcy.

“We have to really start to rethink the way we manage and use, especially, our water resources,” Gleick says, “given the uncertainty that climate change is bringing.”

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California’s larger reservoirs to the north, Trinity, Shasta and Oroville, are all at or below 50% capacity.