The state is entering its fourth year of severe drought, and potential more "drastic" steps to conserve water were announced while we were there, such as outlawing lawn watering within 48 hours of rain and prohibiting water from being served in restaurants unless a customer requests it (which don't sound that drastic to me).
There were rains in December and February but nothing major has changed. We did notice that while the land was very brown when we were last there in November, this time the hills were green and covered with wildflowers. And we did the same hike as on our last visit, in some hills about 50 miles from their place. Last time there was no water in the stream we followed, whereas this time there was significant water we had to cross over on rocks.
We also ran into a heat wave. Whereas in November, every day was sunny and around 70 degrees, this time, except for the first day, it was about 90 degrees -- record-breaking. Living on the East Coast, I've always said on unpleasant summer days, "It's not the heat; it's the humidity." From now on I'll say, "It's the heat and the humidity."
I asked my daughter to turn up the air conditioning a little, since it was getting pretty hot in their apartment. She informed me they don't have A.C., because normally they never need it. Actually, I would have preferred a fan, which is what we use at home during the summer (several of them), but they didn't have that either.
I fear this is the shape of things to come -- more heat, less water -- as the climate crisis deepens. I know California has had droughts before, but there are several indications that this is going to be the new normal. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which melts in the spring and provides up to a third of the state's water, stood at 12 percent of normal last week. More about the drought and the state's responses to it here.
Despite the heat and drought, we still had a great time, taking Eliza, who's 2 years, 9 months, to several different parks, chasing the shade. We also hiked in a nature preserve behind their apartment, spotting many bunnies and lizards and watching a truly spectacular sunset as we climbed to the top of the hill (but I was without my camera for that one). The third amazing sunset was at Laguna Beach, over the Pacific, as Eliza scampered (well guarded) near the cliffs.
It will be interesting to see how the terrain and climate change as she grows up.