Normally rains help drive salt and other toxic minerals deeper into the soil and away from roots of plants.
When that doesn’t happen, farmers can irrigate a little more. But that may not be an option during this drought.
Greg Norris is a state conservation engineer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He says even if farmers have enough water to irrigate, the crop might not produce enough to be viable.
Norris says barley is one crop that’s very salt tolerant. But it’s not just salt that can be a problem.
“They could look at a different crop that’s more salt tolerant or if they can’t do that they could plant a cover crop that is salt tolerant," says Norris. "They may or may not need to irrigate it but it would at least provide some cover to prevent soil erosion either from wind or water.”
January brought above-average rainfall and snow to much of California, partly due to El Niño. But forecasters say the ocean warming condition is "taking a break" for the next week or longer.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says, other than a slight reduction in exceptional drought in the northern Sierra, it needs more time to assess impacts of the recent moisture on California's long-term drought.
California regulators have made modest adjustments to water conservation requirements for cities.
The second measurement this winter of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was 130 percent of average. State water officials say the snowpack will help reservoir recovery.
California's water conservation rate dropped to 18 percent in December. But water regulators say the state continues to meet its long term goals.