Western Water News


Western Water News

Western Water: Your Trusted News Source Since 1977

Western Water has provided in-depth coverage of critical water issues facing California and the West since 1977, first as a printed magazine and now as an online newsroom. Articles explore the science, policy and debates centered around drought, groundwater, sustainability, water access and affordability, climate change and endangered species involving key sources of supply such as the Colorado River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and more.

Western Water news is produced by a team of veteran journalists and others at the Water Education Foundation:

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Western Water Susan Lauer

Translating Snowpack into Usable Data is Tricky Business

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct its final snow survey of the season within the next two weeks, shining a clearer light on the summer’s water picture and lingering drought conditions.

A view of the South Yuba River in Emigrant Gap on March 22, 2016. The snowpack was 89 percent of statewide normal for this date.The data collection and subsequent forecasting will provide vital information for water supply operations and allocations to districts and contractors around the state. More snow means basically more water for downstream users – whether city residents or rural farmers.

Sticking a measuring pole into the snow in the Sierra and crunching the numbers to create a forecast has been done since 1928. Current forecasting efforts and the state’s data network are the backbone of crafting a drought response and an early-warning system for flood emergency response.

Western Water Susan Lauer

Allowing Water Systems to Crash is Not an Option
Western Water Expert Pat Mulroy Urges Peace in California Water Disputes

“Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.” Geologist and Explorer John Wesley Powell at an irrigator convention in 1883.

“In 1883 we had very little understanding of what the flows of the Colorado River were, we had less understanding of the incredible changes in the climate that would be happening over the course of the next 100 years, which we finally came to realize as we entered this century,” said Pat Mulroy, who served as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority from 1989 to 2014.

Mulroy called Powell’s words “prophetic” as she opened the Anne J. Schneider Fund lecture series last Thursday at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.

Brad Udall
Western Water Gary Pitzer

Average Sierra Nevada Winter Temps at Record Highs
Scientist Brad Udall says climate pattern is new normal for California

California had its warmest winter on record in 2014-2015, with the average Sierra Nevada temperature hovering above 32 degrees Fahrenheit – the highest in 120 years. Thus, where California relies on snow to fall in the mountains and create a snowpack that can slowly melt into reservoirs, it was instead raining. That left the state’s snowpack at its lowest ever – 5 percent on April 1, 2015.

Because he relays stats like these, climate scientist Brad Udall says he doesn’t often get invited back to speak before the same audience about climate change.