Tag Archive for 'california drought'

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California Drought: State’s Flawed Water System Can’t Track Usage

Retrieved from: Motherjones.com

“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Call them the fortunate ones: Nearly 4,000 California companies, farms and others are allowed to use free water with little oversight when the state is so bone dry that deliveries to nearly everyone else have been severely slashed.

“Their special status dates back to claims made more than a century ago when water was plentiful. But in the third year of a drought that has ravaged California, these “senior rights holders” dominated by corporations and agricultural concerns are not obliged to conserve water.

“Nobody knows how much water they actually use, though it amounts to trillions of gallons each year, according to a review of their own reports by The Associated Press. Together, they hold more than half the rights to rivers and streams in California.

“The AP found the state’s system is based on self-reported, incomplete records riddled with errors and years out of date; some appear to be using far less water than records would indicate.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

California Gov. On Drought, Wildfires: ‘Humanity Is On A Collision Course With Nature’

Photo retrieved from: www.thinkprogress.org

“California Governor Jerry Brown linked his state’s severe drought and wildfires to climate change on Sunday, saying California was “on the front lines” of the warming problem.

Brown said on ABC’s This Week that though California’s wildfires are relatively under control right now, the state is “in a very serious fire season” — one that’s seen about twice as many fires this year as the average — and future control of the fires depends largely on the weather. He said that as the climate changes in California, the state will need thousands more firefighters and California residents will have to be more careful about where and how they build.

“As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” he said. “So, we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”

Brown also lambasted those in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring or is caused by humans, saying in California, there’s no question climate is changing.

“It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous,” he said. “There is no scientific question — there’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.”

Right now, the entire state of California is in the severest rankings of drought, conditions which, as Joe Romm points out, have created a soil moisture level reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. Last week, more than 20,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as heat and strong Santa Ana winds created conditions ripe for fires that spread through San Diego County.”

Read more: Climate Progress

 

California Snowpack Measure Could Reveal Future of Drought

 

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“A critical measure of a precious resource, April’s survey will influence whether the state’s water officials declare that the drought is easing or that it persists. At stake is the fate of summer water deliveries to farms and cities. (Related: “Could California’s Drought Last 200 Years?“)

Trailed by news media, surveyors will traverse a granite ridge on Lake Tahoe’s 6,800-foot-high (2,073-meter-high) Echo Summit—dense with fragrant pine, fir, and cedar—then drive about ten aluminum tubes into the snow to measure depth. They weigh the samples to gauge water content.

Dozens of other surveyors will be visiting more remote sites in the Sierra. Some may ski 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 kilometers) and climb more than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in a single day.

The skiers, who travel in teams for the sake of safety, take turns breaking trail to conserve their strength, sometimes enlisting help from snowmobiles or helicopters.

Throughout every winter, these spots are revisited monthly to record changing conditions—but findings from the April trip are the most closely watched because that’s when snow is deepest.

April’s test is considered the most accurate snapshot of how much water is hidden within snowflakes for future use.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

 

California governor signs $687 million drought relief legislation

Photo retrieved from: www.reuters.com

“California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed into law a $687 million drought-relief package to deal with a water shortage he has called the worst in the state’s modern history.

“This legislation marks a crucial step – but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The largest share of the drought relief package – $549 million – comes from accelerated spending of bond money voters previously approved in two ballot propositions.

Those measures will fund storm water recapturing, expanded use of recycled water, better management of groundwater storage and stronger water conservation measures.

The legislation also has a program to deal with contaminants that become more concentrated in groundwater when less water is available to dilute them.

In addition, the legislation appropriates $25.3 million in food assistance and $21 million in housing assistance to people affected by the drought, such as farm workers who have lost employment in bone-dry agricultural fields.”

Read more: Reuters

 

Rain Has Little Impact on Santa Cruz County’s Water Woes

Photo retrieved from: www.santacruzsentinel.com

“SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz County’s thirst is still unquenched.

More than nine inches of rain soaked some spots of the county during the weekend, downing trees, flooding roads and finally freeing endangered fish to swim upstream. But the drenching was more show than substance, barely making a dent in the county’s scarce supplies of water.

“We’re still a long way from no need to conserve,” said Eileen Cross, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Water Department, which will present a recommendation for mandatory water rationing at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting.

Due to parched conditions, the earth essentially acted as a giant sponge, absorbing water before it had a chance to run into tributaries or trickle into underwater wells. The column of tropical moisture known as a Pineapple Express helped alleviate dangerous fire conditions, but did little to bolster local water supplies.

“We are continuing to move forward with programs that are in place that would reduce demand as we get into the summer, with the assumption that we’re not going to see a return to normal rainfall totals over the next three months,” said San Lorenzo Valley Water District Manager Jim Mueller, where customers have been asked for a 20 percent cut in water use.

Three-day rainfall amounts peaked at 9.58 inches at the top of Empire Grade. Most coastal areas saw between one and three inches, with more in higher elevations such as the San Lorenzo Valley, where the storm doubled the amount of rain seen since Oct. 1 to about eight inches.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

California Dries Up as Brown Pushes $15 Billion Tunnel

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

California’s worsening drought is raising the stakes for a $15 billion plan endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown to build two 30-mile (48-kilometer) water tunnels under an ecologically sensitive river delta east of San Francisco Bay.

The tunnels, each as wide as a two-lane interstate highway, would ship water more reliably from northern California to thirsty farms and cities in the south. They would also bolster the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is on the verge of collapse from feeding water to 25 million people and 750,000 acres (304,000 hectares) of farmland.

The drought, which officials say could be one of the worst in California’s history, is forcing farmers in the fertile central valley region to fallow thousands of acres of fields and has left 17 rural towns so low on drinking water that the state may need to start trucking in supplies. The tunnels are the biggest part of a $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Reservoirs are at about 60 percent of average, according to state water data, and falling as rainfall remains at record low levels. Mountain snowpack is about 12 percent of normal for this time of year. Brown is urging the state’s 38 million residents to conserve and warning that mandatory restrictions are possible.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

State Water Resources Control Board warns of potential curtailment of water rights

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) administers California’s water rights system and is closely monitoring water availability. The water rights system is designed to provide for the orderly allocation of water supplies in the event that there is not enough water to satisfy everyone’s needs. In the coming weeks and months, if dry weather conditions persist, the State Water Board will notify water right holders in critically dry watersheds of the requirement to limit or stop diversions of water under their water right, based on their priority. The right to divert surface water in California is based on the type of right being claimed and when the right was initiated. In times of drought and limited supply, the most recent (“junior”) right holder must be the first to discontinue use. Some riparian1 and pre-19142 water right holders may also receive a notice to stop diverting water if their diversions are downstream of reservoirs releasing stored water and there is no natural flow available for diversion.

If you are in a water short area, you should be looking into alternative water supplies for your water needs. Alternative supplies include groundwater wells, purchased water supplies under contractual arrangements, and recycled wastewater. Water right holders are cautioned that groundwater resources are significantly depleted in some areas. Water right holders in these areas should make planting and other decisions accordingly.”

Read more: Maven’s Notebook

 

California drought: Farmers, ranchers face uncertain future

Photo retrieved from: www.sfgate.com

“On Friday, amid California’s driest year on record, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in the state. As days pass without snow or rain, dairymen, farmers and other livestock producers are finding themselves in the same predicament as Imhof. Without water to irrigate, produce growers fear they will have to leave some fields fallow.

Ranchers and farmers say that as long as the drought continues, the nation’s largest agricultural state will remain in turmoil, with repercussions stretching to consumer pocketbooks in the form of higher prices for such basic staples as meat, milk, fruit and vegetables.

“If it doesn’t rain in another month there will be ranchers and farmers going out of business,” Imhof said.

For most, there is little to no financial relief or government aid to bail them out. Only 35 of California’s 400 crops are eligible for farm insurance, said Karen Ross, secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Almonds, corn, cotton, citrus and avocados are a few of those crops. Livestock operations are not.

No farm bill

And without the passage of a farm bill, most federal disaster relief programs are not available. Federal lawmakers, still wrangling over a dairy price program, are more than a year overdue passing the bill. The 2008 bill, which included everything from farm subsidies to food stamps, expired in autumn 2012, but was extended until Sept. 30, 2013. The legislation typically carries provisions, offering cash remedies to livestock producers – especially cattle – devastated by natural disasters.”

Read more: SF Gate

 

Major California Drought Could Spell ‘Catastrophe’ for Nation’s Food Supply

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“A major and unyielding drought in California is causing concern in the nation’s “food basket,” as farmers there say the U.S. food supply could be hit hard if the conditions in their state don’t rapidly improve, Al Jazeera America reports Tuesday.

“This is the driest year in 100 years,” grower Joe Del Bosque told Al Jazeera, expressing concern that the hundreds of workers he employs for each year’s harvest could be without a job this season.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 2013 was the driest on record for most areas of California, “smashing previous record dry years” across the state, including regions where approximately half the fruits, vegetables and nuts in the U.S. are grown.

Those conditions have not relented as 2014 begins with most of the state experiencing official ‘severe’ or ‘extreme drought’ conditions.

And as Al Jazeera reports, reservoirs, which store water that flows from the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, are at less than 50 percent capacity—20 percent below average for this time of year.

“That’s rather dismal,” said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources. “If we don’t get big storms to build up that snow pack, we can’t expect much in reservoirs.”

Additionally, earlier this month firefighters were forced to Northern California to battle wildfires that were unprecedented for the time of year, and officials are concerned more fires could be on the way.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Water, water everywhere, but not enough is saved

“Government water managers cringe at the word “drought.” But there are two words that they dread even more: “drought over.”

“A drought forces the government to reduce water deliveries. That agitates farmers and urban gardeners. But at the same time, politicians and bureaucrats gain an opportunity to make a strong case for building more waterworks, especially dams.

“Parching droughts and killer floods: They’re proven motivators that whip up public support for big water projects.

“It’s understandable, therefore, that a state government would be very hesitant to take down the drought sign.

“That came to mind last week as Gov. Jerry Brown finally formally acknowledged what was obvious to everyone: California’s drought had ended.

“For weeks, it had been pouring enough to float an ark.

“OK, maybe I am a bit cynical. Perhaps I’ve watched “Chinatown” too many times. In this classic 1974 film, L.A. officials fake a drought in the San Fernando Valley in order to generate public support for a bond issue that will finance construction of a dam and an aqueduct and make a developer even richer.

“The flick is fiction but close enough to sordid history — excluding the murder and mayhem — that it should be required viewing for every Californian.

“I’m not saying anyone in Sacramento faked the recent so-called drought. But the D-word was grossly abused.

Read more: LA Times