Drought— an extended period of limited or no precipitation— is a
fact of life in California and the West, with water resources
following boom-and-bust patterns.
No portion of the West has been immune to drought during the last
century and drought occurs with much greater frequency in the
West than in other regions of the country.
Most of the West experiences what is classified as severe to
extreme drought more than 10 percent of the time, and a
significant portion of the region experiences severe to extreme
drought more than 15 percent of the time, according to the
National Drought Mitigation Center.
Experts who have studied recent droughts say a drought occurs
about once every 10 years somewhere in the United States.
Droughts are believed to be the most costly of all natural
disasters because of their widespread effects on agriculture and
related industries, as well as on urbanized areas. One of those
decennial droughts could cost as much as $38 billion, according
to one estimate.
Because droughts cannot be prevented, experts are looking for
better ways to forecast them and new approaches to managing
droughts when they occur.
To encourage conservation, cities and water agencies in
California and other states have begun nudging homeowners to
use captured rain for their gardens, rather than water from the
backyard faucet. But Colorado is one of the last places in the
country where rainwater barrels are still largely illegal
because of a complex system of water rights in which nearly
every drop is spoken for.
While the artificial-turf industry points to studies that show
its products are safe and environmentally friendly, some
critics worry about toxins from synthetic yards and fields
leaching into air and waterways. … Some of those raising
concerns, including a California state senator, cite potential
risks to human health.
As for the drought, [Gov. Jerry] Brown told [Los Angeles Times
Publisher Austin] Beutner that Californians need to “take
water and use it and use it again and use it again. The
metaphor is spaceship Earth. In a spaceship you reuse
everything.” OK, but where’s the state’s crash recycling
The Brown administration is pushing late-emerging budget
legislation to let state officials force the consolidation of
troubled water systems with larger, better-funded agencies,
with the goal of improving Californians’ access to safe
drinking water after four years of drought.
In a dramatic and controversial move that reflects the severity
of the drought, California water regulators Friday ordered
farmers and others with some of the oldest water rights in the
state to stop pulling water out of California’s rivers.
Even in dry years, water rights that date back before 1914
usually hold strong. However, Friday the State Water Resources
Control Board announced water rights would be curtailed even
for landowners who had rights dating back to 1903.
For the first time in nearly 40 years, state regulators are
telling more than 100 growers and irrigation districts with
some of the oldest water rights in California that they have to
stop drawing supplies from drought-starved rivers and streams
in the Central Valley.
For the first time in nearly 40 years, California regulators
are telling more than 100 irrigation districts and others with
some of the oldest water rights in the state that they have to
stop pumping supplies from drought-starved rivers and streams
in the Central Valley.
San Joaquin County is once again eligible for millions of
dollars in grants to bolster the region’s water supply, after
landowners agreed to provide private well construction details
to the state, officials announced Wednesday.
California is at a critical moment in deciding how we’ll deal
with stormwater in Los Angeles … and beyond. Next Tuesday,
June 16, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board)
will consider whether or not it will uphold the current
stormwater permit for Los Angeles County, which was last
renewed in 2012.
California is taking desperate steps to save the last
endangered salmon in Wine Country creeks that are going dry
because of over-pumping and the drought, officials said
Thursday. … Threatened steelhead trout are also being pulled
from drying stretches of the waterways.
In a promising trend that increases the likelihood of steady
storms this winter that could ease California’s historic
drought, federal scientists on Thursday reported that El Niño
conditions in the Pacific Ocean are continuing to grow
[Gov. Jerry] Brown has always had the capacity to
be fascinating and maddening in the same instant, and he
was both during an hour of questioning at USC by Los Angeles
Times publisher Austin Beutner. The governor offered little in
the way of advice for Californians wondering how, exactly, to
trim a quarter of their water usage, the level necessary
statewide to satisfy his plan.
Yet even as California farmers eye what could be a lucrative
expansion into the world’s most discriminating rice market in
Japan, their ambitions have been complicated by the state’s
severe drought and the surge in the dollar.
Families from San Bernardino to Temecula will still be able to
cool off at their neighborhood pools and water slides this
summer, despite orders from the state to cut water use an
average of 25 percent.
[Tony] Corcoran alone estimates he’s put more than 100 videos
of water-wasters, complete with their addresses, up on YouTube.
Others tweet out addresses and photos of water scofflaws on
Twitter, using hashtags such as (hash)DroughtShaming.
Four years into a drought that has left many cities and farms
desperate for water, the vast Sierra-fed water system that
serves San Francisco and much of the Bay Area is in relatively
good shape — and should get the region through the dry months
ahead, officials said Tuesday.
The Stockton East Water District might send more water to
farmers than originally expected next month, despite the fact
that the reservoir on which the district relies has dwindled to
18 percent of capacity.
California’s worst water-guzzling residents and businesses
could get slapped with 300 percent taxes on their bills under
drought-inspired legislation that was proposed Tuesday but
faces a tough path before it could actually affect local water
The governor’s obsession with building massive tunnels under
the Delta could muck up what should be a simple issue: granting
CEQA exemption requests for emergency drought projects. The
request in the form of Trailer Bill 831 is part of the budget
process for dealing with the drought.
As East Bay water officials on Tuesday were about to increase
rates and impose the toughest penalties yet against water
wasters, Raven Brown had one concern. She’s held off from
bathing her dog, which has fleas, for fear her water bill would
go up and she might be fined.
East Bay residents will see an average 24 percent hike in their
water bills, starting next month, after the East Bay Municipal
Utility District on Tuesday approved a bump in rates, largely
to make up for revenue lost during the drought.
In a broad-ranging conversation that touched on the
“existential threat” posed by man-made global warming, as well
as the arcane laws delineating state water rights, [Gov. Jerry]
Brown said Californians must learn to live more frugally when
it comes to their most precious resource.
[Interior Secretary Sally] Jewell said climate change and
drought are to blame for worsening wildfires, which she said
destroy homes and businesses, threaten power grids and drinking
water and cause damage river valleys that cost millions and
take decades to restore.
With water levels in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir
and a bellwether for water supplies in the Southwest, setting a
new record low every day, the seven states of the Colorado
River Basin are finalizing a pair of novel water conservation
agreements that will keep more water in the shrinking lake.
Ever since the state’s salinity barrier stopped water from
flowing through a segment of False River on May 29 — a
last-ditch drought effort to keep salty bay water from
encroaching on the clean Delta drinking water — the currents
have shifted dramatically, endangering boaters and threatening
nearby levees, island officials and residents say.
The city of Lincoln, Sacramento Suburban Water District and
Georgetown Divide Public Utility District have been told they
have to reduce water consumption by 32 percent over the next
nine months compared to 2013.
Mining desert groundwater, as far-fetched as it may seem, seems
among the most plausible additions to the region’s existing
sources of imported water: the Colorado River, and State Water
Project – which transfers water from Northern California to
Southern California. But, like many grand water schemes, this
one is attracting its share of detractors.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday said he won’t back down on his
threat to fine cities, water districts and private water
companies $10,000 a day if they fail to meet strict water
conservation targets during California’s relentless drought.
This is a follow-up post to the “One drop, a dozen options”
article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter. The article
mentions longtime Mono Lake Committee member Regina Hirsch and
her business Sierra Watershed Progressive with respect to the
greywater system she helped us create in 2012.
Yes, it will rain again someday. And when it does, and the
Calaveras River once more becomes a flowing stream, officials
want to give migrating fish their best possible chance at
journeying to prime spawning habitat below New Hogan Dam.
The tremendous challenge of upgrading our water infrastructure
will require federal cooperation. That’s why I [Dianne
Feinstein] plan to introduce drought legislation soon to
lay out the federal role in this long-term effort.
The Santa Ana River is a robust and beautiful sight these days.
Five miles west of the Prado Dam in Yorba Linda, the water has
cut a narrow channel in a sandy bed and courses briskly over
submerged rocks and tree limbs.
Cattle rancher Mary Wells lives in a remote valley of
summer-gold grass where eagles wheel in the sky, wild pigs roam
the surrounding hills and rattlesnakes slither over a parched
14,000-acre domain that looks almost untouched by humans.
In coming months, his [Jack Nicklaus] design firm will
oversee the installation of high-efficiency irrigation and add
native plants to the Thousand Oaks course. Workers will strip
away seven or more acres of turf in places where members rarely
hit the ball.
A glistening spectacle on the west Fresno County prairie could
be a rock star in California’s next drought. It’s a mirrored
solar array longer than a football field, collecting heat to
boil salt and other impurities out of irrigation drainage. …
The technology is among Valley water stories that The Bee will
tell this month in a weekly series.
The state’s splintered congressional delegation — despite its
size and influence — has been stymied by fundamental
disagreements over the causes of the drought and the role of
the federal government in mitigating its consequences.
On the perennially vexing subjects of water and the drought,
Gov. Jerry Brown has been on something of a roll. … The
drought has risen to the top of the list of Californians’
concerns, a new poll shows, and not just in regions of the
state where water is a constant problem.
Most of the Delta’s small, family farms trace back to the Gold
Rush, when the wetlands were dammed and levies were built to
grow food to feed the miners. It was only later that the
federal government began pumping water from here, through
canals, to farms in more arid areas hundreds of miles to the
Some 3 million hatchery rainbow and brown trout are in
quarantine at two North State hatcheries after captive-raised
fish at the Darrah Springs Trout Hatchery in Paynes Creek
tested positive for whirling disease.
One afternoon last summer, Pat Mulroy stood in 106-degree heat
at the broad concrete banister atop the Hoover Dam, the wall
that holds back the mighty Colorado River, and with it the
nation’s largest reserve of water.
In a story June 2 about the California drought, The Associated
Press, relying on figures from the State Water Resources
Control Board, reported erroneously that the city of Escondido
performed worst in the state on water conservation in April
2015, with a 20 percent increase in use from April 2013.
In a fresh challenge to California’s management of the drought,
a group of environmentalists has sued state and federal
officials, charging that they’re harming fish and wildlife in
their efforts to deliver more water to farms and cities.
Farmers are being widely criticized during the California
drought because agriculture uses the majority of the state’s
water. But some farmers are cutting back by employing new
techniques. A recent study used half as much water to yield
twice as much fruit.
For the first time, Californians are more concerned about the
state’s dogged drought than they are about jobs and the
economy, according to a Public Policy Institute of California
poll released Wednesday.
Most Californians don’t believe others in their region of the
state are doing enough to respond to the four-year drought,
with the harshest criticism being dished out in Los Angeles,
Orange and San Diego counties, according to a new poll by
the Public Policy Institute of California.
A survey released Wednesday found state residents for the first
time put the water shortage ahead of jobs, housing and state
finances as California’s most pressing issue, with a large
majority thinking that they and their neighbors should be doing
more to address the problem.
For the expected 1,500-plus people attending the International
Desalination Assn. World Congress, the highlight will be a
Sept. 4 tour of the $1-billion desalination plant under
construction in Carlsbad.
Water may be scarce in California and other parts of the
Southwest, but people are flooding in, according to newly
released Census data. The influx of residents into these areas
not only coincides with a changing labor and housing market,
but also has far-reaching implications for water
The drought is expected to be worse for California’s
agricultural economy this year because of reduced water
availability, according to our preliminary estimates released
today. The study, summarized below, estimates farmers will have
2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a
normal water year — about a 33 percent loss of water supply, on
The drought is expected to cost California’s agricultural
economy $1.8 billion this year, about four percent of
California’s $45 billion agricultural economy, according to a
new economic analysis by researchers at the UC Davis Center for
In a potentially significant setback for a system already
stressed by epic drought, California regulators have ordered a
temporary curb in the flows being released from Lake Shasta in
order to protect an endangered species of salmon.
After lagging during the first part of the year, water
conservation in California improved significantly in April
following Gov. Jerry Brown’s historic order requiring big cuts
in water use amid the worsening drought.
Citing drought conditions and low water levels in Lake Shasta,
state officials have ordered releases from Keswick Dam into the
Sacramento River be reduced to help salmon spawning later this
summer and fall.
As mandatory water restrictions took effect Monday across
California, a panel of experts called upon the drought-plagued
state to upgrade its water infrastructure and reform its
antiquated water rights system.
The California State Water Resources Control Board has
temporarily suspended a Sacramento River management plan in
order to protect a salmon run. The Board is expected to
consider its next moves during its Tuesday meeting.
California on Monday officially began its unprecedented effort
to conserve water in the midst of a fourth year of severe
drought, marching out orders for communities statewide to make
reductions of up to 36 percent.
The California swimming pool and spa industry has launched a
campaign to market itself as a drought-friendly landscaping
option as the state enters a fourth summer of drought that has
residential pools and other conspicuous water users in the
The decline of Lake Mead to a water level not seen in nearly
eight decades, or since the giant reservoir was still filling
behind the just-completed Hoover Dam, is more than a visual
reminder of the severity of the drought.
To conserve during the statewide drought, the letter said,
Antelope Valley water customers would have to collectively
reduce consumption 32%. But Chadd’s family of seven would be
required to cut consumption 70% or potentially see their bill
In the fourth year of an unrelenting drought emergency, every
use of water in California is being put under the microscope.
Watering a lawn, filling a pool, washing a car, growing food —
all are familiar practices now viewed with a more critical eye.
The same is true of California’s oil industry, the nation’s
And lawn, whether real or synthetic, is not the only surface
safe for play. As homeowners turn away from water-guzzling,
time-sucking lawns, they’re looking at other grounds materials,
from decomposed granite and bark to shredded tires.
More than 350 people turned out, and nearly all in opposition,
to voice their concerns at the only public hearing on strict
new water conservation rules that will affect 1 million people
across Silicon Valley starting June 15.
Thirty-seven public officials who set the region’s water policy
have collectively cut back 11 percent on their home use so far
this year, falling short of the 20 percent reduction sought by
state officials amid a historic drought.
It doesn’t take much water to wash dishes — not in Jess
Cullen’s kitchen, at least. … Cullen is one of a
multitude of Southern California residents who grew up in
countries where water wasn’t unlimited.
Silicon Valley’s largest water company is changing how it will
roll out some of the state’s strictest water conservation rules
to address complaints that the new per-household allocations
unfairly penalize large families.
Responding to a surge of interest in removing grass amid
California’s worsening drought, the Metropolitan Water District
agreed Monday to spend an additional $350 million to help
homeowners and businesses replace the turf.
A major water wholesaler on Tuesday added $350 million to its
budget to replenish a cash-for-grass program that has gained
popularity during the California drought with homeowners,
landlords and businesses looking to replace water-draining
Five local municipal water suppliers are currently awaiting the
response from the State Water Resources Control Board that will
determine whether they will be granted a low monthly water
conservation quota or be hit by cuts up to seven times that
These colossal columns of nature are dying throughout Southern
California, victims of a prolonged drought, unseasonably hot
winter temperatures and reduced irrigation from a
state-mandated 25 percent water conservation order.
With California farmers not planting as much rice due to water
restrictions, Southern rice-growing states are jumping in to
fill the gap by expanding their production and taking some of
the Golden State’s markets in the process.
When California officials struck an unprecedented conservation
deal Friday with a group of farmers who have the strongest
claims on the state’s dwindling water supply, it showed no one
was immune from the fallout of the drought.
Delta farmers can voluntarily reduce water use during the
drought without capitulating to outside interests who are
targeting their water rights, according to supporters of an
unprecedented plan approved Friday.
Citing heavy demand for fake turf and other drought-tolerant
landscaping, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California is considering a $350-million increase in the
money it spends on conservation rebate programs.
In a move reflecting the growing severity of California’s
drought, state water regulators have accepted a historic
proposal by Delta region farmers to voluntarily cut water usage
by 25%, or, alternatively, to allow a quarter of their fields
to lay idle.
The land is bare, except for a few weeds, and the ground is
cracked. For the second year in a row, Dan Errotabere is
fallowing one third of his ranch: 1,700 acres of California
farmland that might have grown tomatoes, garlic, onions and
Farmers along the river delta at the heart of California
agriculture expected to get an answer Friday on their surprise
offer to give up a quarter of their water this year in exchange
for being spared deeper mandatory cutbacks as California
responds to the worsening drought.
In a somber opening to wildfire season this month, federal and
state officials meeting in Nevada warned that kindling-dry
forests and a rainless forecast could lead multiple states in
the Great Basin to erupt in flames at once, stretching
firefighters and equipment thin across the region. … Dryness
stretches throughout the American West. Yet the nation is
captivated by the notion of a “California drought.”
In the fourth year of the most severe drought in state history,
Californians are finally starting to turn away from arcane
rules and practices that have allowed them nearly unlimited use
of water since the era of the Gold Rush.
In the 1976-77 drought, the state ordered growers with some of
the oldest water rights in California to stop pumping from many
rivers and streams. Now, in a sign of the spreading pain of
another punishing drought, regulators are preparing to do the
The Fresno City Council on Thursday bought some much-needed
water and brought some unexpected peace to a dust-control
program. … Weeks of negotiations with the Friant Water
Authority and the federal Bureau of Reclamation led to a
California’s drought is a powerful reminder of the
vulnerability and precious nature of our water resources. To
become more responsible with water usage and waste, a few apps
can help people learn about and reduce their water consumption.
Dozens of California farmers whose century-old claims to rivers
and streams have assured them a nearly endless water supply, at
least up until now, are offering to give up a quarter of their
water in exchange for a guarantee that the drought-plagued
state won’t come clamoring for a whole lot more. …
State officials have not yet acted on the offer.
Protesters rallied outside a Nestle water-bottling plant in Los
Angeles today [May 20], demanding that the company halt its
operations in response to the state’s drought. A simultaneous
rally was held at a plant in Sacramento.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted
unanimously to send a letter to the federal government making a
formal request for its promised 50,000 acre-feet of Trinity
River water in advance of another summer of drought and
The drought has worked a miracle in the Owens Valley, as
environmental activists and ranchers have buried decades of
enmity to forge a plan to save ranch land — at the expense of
hard-fought environmental protections.
Morada, located northeast of Stockton, is one of three small
towns in the county where water meters have been installed that
aren’t being used because of Proposition 218. The other two,
Acampo and Fairway Estates, surround Lodi.
A plan under consideration by the state will allow farmers who
claim senior riparian rights to continue taking water later
this summer, if they will agree now to leave 25 percent of
their land barren, or to conserve 25 percent of the water they
would normally use.
Nearly 1 million Silicon Valley residents will face strict
water quotas — and pricey premiums for going over — under what
will soon be the Bay Area’s most far-reaching rationing plan in
four years of drought.
Despite the drought, the number of workers employed in
California’s agricultural industry rose to its highest level in
at least 24 years, as many farmers shifted toward
labor-intensive, permanent crops, according to the latest state
and federal statistics.
Information is the heart of California’s $US 2 trillion
economy. … In nearly every sector, data — and the strategic
decisions it enables — are a principal source of the Golden
State’s economic triumph. But in agriculture, the bedrock
water-consuming industry in a state buffeted by a deep
four-year drought, water data are not collected with anywhere
near the same rigor and dedication.
Modesto is stepping up its enforcement of its drought
restrictions by sending water cops out in the early morning to
check for homeowners, businesses and others watering their
lawns and other landscaping when they shouldn’t or wasting
water because of malfunctioning sprinklers.
An overwhelming majority of Californians believe the state’s
drought is extremely serious and support Gov. Jerry Brown’s
mandatory new water conservation rules, according to a new
statewide poll released Tuesday.
Golf courses across the central San Joaquin Valley — like
courses and country clubs throughout the state — are throttling
back on irrigation and reducing the acreage of grass that they
must water as they cope with California’s drought.
In 2000, most of the Sacramento region’s water agencies and
environmental groups came together in the historic Water Forum
Agreement that established a framework to provide a reliable
water supply through 2030 and to preserve environmental
resources of the lower American River.
Nearly two-thirds of Californians support mandatory water
restrictions ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown amid the state’s
historic drought, though many fear it will be hard to cut back
and think farmers can do more to conserve, according to a new
It’s time to stop temporizing about a bureaucratic foul-up that
threatens underwater water supplies across a swath of
California’s oil fields. … In a drought-damaged state, the
situation is mind boggling.
The persistent drought has put a new emphasis on using more
recycled water for irrigation, a practice that has long been
allowed for some lawns, vineyards, golf courses and parks in
Sonoma County, but isn’t spreading fast enough for officials in
In addition to calling for an overall 25 percent reduction in
urban water use, Governor [Jerry] Brown also announced plans
for a statewide incentive program to replace appliances like
inefficient clothes washers. While people commonly think of
toilets and faucets (and even showers) as the greatest users of
water indoors, older top-loading clothes washers—found in more
than 4 million homes in California—are water guzzlers.
Several years ago, Glendale restricted fake grass to
residential backyards, where they were out of sight from the
street. … But with the drought entering its fourth year, the
city is considered lifting the ban as a way to conserve water.
At the bottom of California’s Central Valley bathtub, Delta
farmers always have drawn from the rivers and sloughs with
confidence. … But now, in the fourth year of this drought,
state regulators may cut off even riparian water users later
Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse recently spoke with
[UC Davis fish biologist Peter] Moyle about the survival
of the much politicized tiny fish, a federally designated
“threatened” species with protections that at times have curbed
the flow of water to many cities and farms. The interview
resulted in only 10 seconds of air time. However, the reporter
and biologist later agreed to post on California WaterBlog this
more insightful series of questions and answers they had
drafted in preparation for the interview.
For the first time since 1913 — when Department of Water and
Power chief architect William Mulholland opened the waterway
with the words, “There it is. Take it!” — the 233-mile Los
Angeles Aqueduct has stopped carrying Owens Valley runoff to
People don’t easily forget the moment the water dies. … In
this corner of the scorched Tulare Lake Basin, where lives and
livelihoods depend on water that comes from the ground, a human
crisis is accelerating amid California’s unrelenting drought.
When Edmund G. Brown Sr. was governor of California, people
were moving in at a pace of 1,000 a day. … He was the
boom-boom governor for a boom-boom time: championing highways,
universities and, most consequential, a sprawling water network
to feed the explosion of agriculture and development in the dry
reaches of central and Southern California.
What do you do when you have 30 million young salmon ready for
their big journeys downstream, but drought and development have
dried your riverbeds to sauna rocks? In California this year,
you give the fish a ride.