As I’ve uttered the words “drought” and “water shortage” in the past weeks, I’ve heard a few chuckles from folks I know.

They’ve asked: How can you have a drought when it’s pouring down outside?

Fair enough. But when you don’t get most of your water from here, the rainfall helps — though it’s not the solution.

San Diego imports about 90 percent of its water from two major sources, the Colorado River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. So unless it’s snowing heavily there, too, the local rainfall isn’t as consequential.

It does help suppress demand. Most folks turn off their sprinklers during a rainstorm. (We’re looking at you, CalTrans.)

And it helps to fill up local reservoirs. Even in the wettest years, though, those reservoirs have only captured enough water to provide part of our supply. Ken Weinberg, director of water resources at the San Diego County Water Authority, said in 1998 and 1999, local supplies accounted for 26-27 percent of the region’s total.

That boost followed the second-wettest winter in the last four decades. San Diego got almost 21 inches of rain in 1998 — more than double the average.

So that keeps water managers focused on what happens elsewhere in the state. This winter, the water authority is just hoping that enough snow falls in California to keep the state’s projected deliveries where they stand. The state Department of Water Resources, the agency responsible for determining how much water to send from the Sacramento Delta to Southern California and other water users, has so far promised to deliver only 15 percent of what’s been requested.

“We’re in such a deficit right now,” Weinberg said. “What we’re hoping is that these snowstorms allow the state to hold to where they are.”


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