California's drought is nearly over

California isn't drought-free just yet, but half of the state is there thanks to recent storms and heavy rain.

"We do strongly object to doing this under the banner of a drought emergency that everybody sees no longer exists", said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, a group representing water districts serving 6 million of California's almost 40 million residents.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that about a half-dozen counties in the northeastern Georgia mountains and patches of another half-dozen counties in central Alabama are still dealing with extreme drought.

Much of California has gone from withered to water-logged this winter, but the state's top water regulator is not ready to lift emergency conservation measures enacted during the height of the drought.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the USDA, says the country is free of D-4, or exceptional drought, for the first time since March 29, 2011.

"Statewide average snowpack (snow water equivalent) is nearly twice normal for late January, and somewhat more than twice normal in the southern Sierra Nevada", said Richard Tinker, a drought expert with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, according to CNN.

Nearly all of Habersham and White counties remain in extreme drought, with the far northern portions of Dawson and Lumpkin also in extreme drought.

The weekly United States Drought Monitor report released Thursday indicates roughly 49 percent of the state is no longer under drought conditions.

Like the prior week, heavy to excessive precipitation pummeled most of California Jan. 17 through Tuesday, Jan. 24. Eastern Connecticut remains in a Moderate drought.

"I'm a little reluctant to say the drought's over, even though conditions have markedly improved", says Cayan, citing the need to replenish groundwater aquifers. Water supply comes from groundwater in the central foothills on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley where residents of Tuolumne County with dry wells are still receiving water that is trucked in.

Precipitation figures from stations in the Sierra are more than twice the normal average and were as high as 226 percent of normal in the southern Sierra on January 26.

But it's good to keep in mind that not all experts agree on the status of California's drought.

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