Green Room: 2023 Rainy Season and the California Drought

The City of Goleta Environmental Services division would like to answer a few common questions pertaining to the 2023 storms and the California drought. So far, 2023 has been a very wet year for the State of California. Specifically, the City of Goleta has received 29.44” of precipitation to date! Twenty-nine inches is roughly 177% of the typical amount of rain that Goleta receives by early April. This rain was extremely fortuitous after the intense dry periods that California experienced in 2022 and 2021, which were the driest years in State history.  

Have the recent storms replenished reservoir levels?  

Yes! Reservoirs in Santa Barbara County are currently at capacity/near capacity. The Gibraltar and Cachuma Reservoirs are both currently at 98% capacity, and the Jameson Reservoir is at 100% capacity. On average, major California reservoirs are at approximately 106% of their average levels. Shasta and Oroville, California’s two largest reservoirs, are current at 85% and 83% of their total capacity, respectively.   

If reservoir levels have recovered, why is California still in a drought? 

Even though Federal, State, and County reservoir levels have recovered, California remains in a drought. Although many of the above-ground water storage facilities have reached maximum/near maximum capacity, groundwater levels (below-ground storage) have not recovered. During dry years, such as 2021 and 2022, water users are forced to pump groundwater when no other water sources are available. Groundwater pumping during recent dry seasons has severely depleted underground aquifers in many areas of California. Replenishing underground water supplies can take decades, so the 2023 rainstorms did not provide enough precipitation to immediately reverse the effects of previous pumping. Today, 60% of all monitoring wells in California are sitting below their normal groundwater levels, despite the influx of precipitation from recent storms.  

How do I prepare for a flood event?  

The City of Goleta provides a variety of resources to help community members prepare for winter storms. Through these resources, you can learn your flood risk, find information on flood preparation for homeowners, and find a list of sandbag stations in Goleta. The County of Santa Barbara ( also offers resources including ways check if your home is in a flood zone, decide if you need flood insurance, and learn more about the FEMA Flood Insurance program. Additional resources include videos on flood preparedness and recent rainfall data.

If you are not already signed up to receive emergency alerts from the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, we encourage you to do so at Be sure to also sign up for emergency information from the City of Goleta at

Finally, it is important to remember that flooding can cause the redistribution of contaminants in the environment, leading to pollution of local waterways. Learn more about stormwater and pollution in our pamphlet “The Ocean Begins on Your Street”!  

Photo by Mike Eliason