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.
New rainfall figures released Monday show California is at 85% of normal rainfall for this time of year, with an average of 23.1 inches of rain as of Monday, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
The dry January was the topic of discussion Monday at a meeting held by the Sonoma County Water Agency, which provides drinking water to more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties — relying exclusively on rainfall captured in two reservoirs.
Scientists from UC Berkeley and Oregon State University spent a decade studying about 30 streams in the Madrean Sky Islands, an arid landscape of canyons, cliffs and mountainous woodlands in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.
Amid growing concern about global weather patterns, a rocket roared into space Saturday carrying a NASA satellite that will give scientists new tools to forecast weather, track drought and monitor climate change.
January ended with a record temperature of 74 degrees Saturday at Sacramento’s Executive Airport and almost no measurable rainfall for the month – making it the driest January on record since reliable records started being kept in 1849, the National Weather Service said.
Felicia Marcus gets in the shower when it’s still cold. As full-time chair of California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Marcus has a key role in how California stewards its finite resources during a devastating drought.
Earlier this month, the Public Policy Institute of California held a half-day conference in Sacramento focusing on how the state can manage through another dry year and become more drought resilient. Is the current drought a sign of things to come? Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the Department of Water Resources, kicked off the PPIC conference, Managing Drought, with a presentation addressing that question.
At the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) event, Managing Drought, held earlier this month, Jane Doolan, a professorial fellow of natural resource governance and a member of Australia’s National Water Commission, discussed how the Australian government responded to the extreme drought conditions with policy initiatives that changed their water entitlement system, supported water markets, and provided water for the environment to head off catastrophic impacts to sensitive species and ecosystems.
Traditionally California’s wettest month, January’s meager rainfall has produced a miniscule improvement in the crucial winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada that historically provides about 30 percent of the state’s water needs.
On Jan. 23, the State Water Resource Control Board issued a Notice of Surface Water Shortage and Potential for Curtailment of Water Right Diversions for the coming year. … While the new Notice does not specify when such curtailment notices will be issued to the affected water rights holders, it is expected that the State Board will follow similar procedures as it did in curtailing water diversions in 2014.
For the first time ever, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento have recorded no rainfall for the month of January — nada drop. … Southern California has had better luck, enjoying a couple of significant weather systems this month that came up from the south.
The latest survey of California’s mountain snowpack on Thursday brought the bad news slamming home: This month will rank as the driest January in state history at many locations, virtually assuring a fourth straight year of drought. On Thursday, the statewide snowpack was 25 percent of normal for the date.
After receiving nearly 160 percent of normal rainfall in November and December — thus causing Santa Cruz to suspend mandatory water rationing for residential customers — the driest January on record stands as a stark reminder of how vulnerable the water supply is to nature’s mood swings.
California is working on a checklist to ease the pain of three-year drought and make sure the state isn’t caught short in the future. One of the items is “water storage,” better translated as more dams.
On the eve of the January snowpack survey of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, water management officials said Southern California’s largest water wholesaler may need to institute stricter water limits if winter precipitation does not improve.
As California caps what may be its driest January on record, Frank Gehrke will lead a bevy of surveyors on Thursday to a predetermined spot on Echo Summit in an exercise that has become a monthly downer in the documentation of the state’s historic drought.
With December’s deluge now a distant memory and a bone-dry, unseasonably warm January coming to a close, even a wet February and early spring likely won’t help the historic drought conditions affecting Monterey County and the rest of the state, according to a National Weather Service expert.
A little storm can come through and rain on Fresno records, but I’m [Mark Grossi] driving at something else: This is winter in capricious California. Wildfires, blizzards, killing frosts, dry spells, howling wind, pleasant sunny days, drizzling storms and fog happen in January.
In his inaugural speech, Gov. Jerry Brown promised to be a national leader on environmental issues. If California wants to pass big environmental policies, legislators need to look to people of color to lead the way.
This month I [John Laird] start my fifth year as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources. … Many major issues we face are not chosen by us. Nothing better describes that than being on point for the issues of water and fire amidst the three driest years in California history.
The drought has spurred California to revive controversial plans to build rock dams across three Delta waterways in an effort to prevent seawater from degrading drinking water for 25 million people — including those in San Jose, Concord, and Livermore.
A Mill Valley home has been fitted with a series of pipes and valves to send shower, sink and clotheswasher graywater to landscaping in an effort to conserve limited supplies of fresh water from Mount Tamalpais and the Russian River used by Marin residents.
Firefighters halted the blaze early Monday before it could do serious damage, but the evacuations punctuated a January that is poised to go down as the driest in California history, giving rise to summerlike conditions — including the threat of wildfire — even as the Northeast is hit with a paralyzing blast of snow.
In some of the world’s driest places, atmospheric moisture is a major source of water for native ecosystems. … Some drought-minded California residents along the coast, perhaps yearning for a clear ocean view, have suggested harvesting fog as a water supply.
Although Soquel Creek Water District officials pulled the plug last year on a $3 million mandated conservation program, the agency soon will roll out some components of the initiative designed to reverse groundwater overdraft.
California took enormous steps to address our water future by passing a water bond and landmark groundwater laws last year, but there’s more to be done. Lawmakers should look to reform the California Environmental Quality Act to ensure we are using water efficiently and sustainably.
Facing a fourth drought year and maybe the driest January on record, farm water leaders hope storms are on the way, but they saw a dry January last year and got no water from the federal Central Valley Project. … In late February, the bureau [of Reclamation] makes a forecast of summer water delivery.
The State Water Resources Control Board advised water rights holders today [Jan. 23] that water diversions may be curtailed in critically dry watersheds again this year if conditions do not improve over the coming months.
Santa Barbara County water agencies announced Friday that they will receive $2 million in state funding for a pumping project at Cachuma Lake — a source of drinking water for 220,000 people on the southern central coast — where water levels have dropped precipitously low.
Two discussions that play a large role in the future of California’s water systems begin this week. … The two meetings are the highest profile examples of discussions that are taking place in California communities large and small.
Residents are getting a sample of Santa Cruz County’s summer-like weather this weekend as temperatures are expected to reach into the 70s. … The weather is the latest stage of the unseasonably warm and dry weather hovering around as California enters its fourth year of drought.
Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are turning their crop into energy instead of sweetener. A cooperative of nine sugar beet farmers just opened a demonstration biorefinery south of Fresno.
The Turlock Irrigation District could cap water deliveries at about 40 percent of the customary amount even if the rest of winter brings average rain and snow. The district staff on Tuesday night provided an initial look at the supply for 2015, which is looking to be a fourth straight year of drought.
More than three years of drought has reduced reservoir storage in California and groundwater supply. Some wine grape growers in Amador County are worried the limited resource could make this season more challenging.
A popular cross-country ski area near Lake Tahoe has temporarily closed due to a lack of snow, and forecasters say the lingering drought should persist or get worse in the months ahead across most of California and Nevada.
The 862-acre mountain that rises to 8,200 feet — a relatively small site by California standards — was the latest in two days to ground operations as January temperatures climb to near-record highs and weeks pass without wet weather.
Today, we face climate change as our biggest environmental challenge, and these lands are more important than ever. Drought and extreme weather already impact California’s communities and economy; rising sea levels already erode our coastline.
Looking back on 2014, it’s hard not to feel despair for California salmon. … There was, however, a startling exception to the run of bad salmon news. On the Shasta River, a lifeline for Siskiyou County cattle ranchers, more than 18,000 fall-run Chinook salmon returned from the ocean. That’s more than double the return from the previous fall.
Stream gauges and monitoring wells are ready and waiting along the San Joaquin River. Big money has been spent for the right to let water flow through a private bypass. All that’s missing now is water.
California’s drought crept in slowly, but it could end with a torrent of winter storms that stream across the Pacific, dumping much of the year’s rain and snow in a few fast-moving and potentially catastrophic downpours.
For all the discussion of how the city, parks and golf courses guzzle water, the lion’s share of L.A.’s supply is sucked up by residential customers, according to data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
A number of conversations are occurring in the U.S. House of Representatives, and between the House and the U.S. Senate (particularly Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford, Calif.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.)) to reintroduce a version of last year’s drought legislation (H.R. 5781).
The saga of the California drought — possibly the most severe in 1,200 years — may not be enough on its own to cause the 114th Congress to fork over billions in federal dollars for new water projects that benefit the Golden State.
California’s ongoing drought marked a setback for five important fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in 2014, including the Delta smelt, a signature native fish that has often altered the course of state water policy.
The American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting is the world’s largest convention for the Earth sciences. Every year in mid-December, the Moscone Center in San Francisco’s tech-booming South of Market district welcomes nearly 24,000 of the world’s top scientists for a banquet of research and debate. For five days I sampled widely from the AGU buffet, looking for new insight into the ways in which water shapes ecology and society.
Last year, as drought gripped California, [Javier] Zamora’s bills for water and the electricity that runs the pump at his well skyrocketed. But this year, he invested in a new irrigation system that’s dramatically cutting his costs and water consumption.
Despite December storms that prompted flood warnings and brought more than eight inches of rain to areas of the Tri-Valley, the much-needed precipitation did little to relieve the drought’s impact on the former gravel quarry between Livermore and Pleasanton.
The spike in air pollution signaled that Southern California hasn’t met a long-stated goal of meeting the federal health standard by 2015 for daily measures of this kind of pollution, which is associated with health problems ranging from increased asthma attacks to early deaths. For years, the region was on track to meet the goal, but the ongoing drought meant fewer rainy days that cleanse the skies.
You treat drought as a way of life, not an event to just get through, said Jane Doolan, an Australian who helped that nation craft the water policies that led Australia through a 20-year drought. Doolan shared that viewpoint with some of the most water wise people in California … at a conference hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Two Inland Empire water wholesale agencies, just like most consumers, are tired of dealing with the impact of drought. … The IEUA [Inland Empire Utilities Agency] and the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, are working to increase local supply reliability through future projects in the next decade.
California’s drought has made it abundantly clear how important it is to know exactly how much water is available. … Scientists from the Desert Research Institute in Reno, the California Department of Water Resources and the US Bureau of Reclamation are placing a floating weather station in the water at Folsom Lake.
We learned last week that Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses are doing well in the water-saving department, at least compared to numbers last fall, and that we’re doing better than most other communities in California.
A new report out of the State Water Resources Control Board found that despite calls from the governor to reduce water use by 20 percent, state residents are stuck at around 10 percent. And that’s looking at the numbers in a positive way.
The value of California’s rice harvest in 2012 was $770 million. The almond harvest’s worth was $4.3 billion. But which is more valuable: a rice field or an almond orchard? Which is more worthy of our vital resource, water?
Two months ago, in the grip of a historic drought, California voters overwhelmingly approved a $7.5 billion water bond to fund everything from new storage projects to modernizing drinking water treatment plants.
California policymakers have done about all they can to deal with the state’s historic drought: urge residents to use less water, pass a bond with money for more storage facilites, cross their fingers that Mother Nature will soon relent.
Trying to be more inviting to families with children, the Renaissance Indian Wells is considering building a water park and some residential villas at the resort off of Highway 111. … ”A red flag goes up for me when a water park is being proposed and we’re in the middle of a drought,” [Councilman Dana] Reed said.
A tractor rumbled over 2 acres of green turf last month at the MillerCoors brewery, its mechanical rake leaving wide swaths of thirsty grass chomped up in its wake. … For its water-saving efforts, the beer company is scheduled to receive a check for about $187,000 from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California through the agency’s turf replacement rebate program.
Looking to cultivate technical innovation and address vital water-supply issues facing drought-stricken California, the newly formed Innovation Hub San Joaquin board announced Thursday its H2O Hackathon to be held March 27-28 in Stockton.
First and last, the year’s biggest story was California’s historic drought, which forced down reservoirs and ground water to unprecedented lows, turned off the taps to farms and businesses – and even at least one small town – and ultimately persuaded voters in November to approve a multibillion-dollar waterworks bond that included $2.7 billion in new storage.
Driven by climate change and a persistent ridge of high pressure over the Pacific Ocean that caused California’s drought, 2014 was the state’s hottest year ever recorded. … On Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown made climate change a centerpiece of his inaugural address.
After three years of drought, water shortages and the impact on agriculture show that California’s system of delivering water is troubled. The voter-approved $7.5 billion water bond will help. But whoever replaces Boxer must be steeped in water policy and able to deliver federal aid back home.
California not only sweated through its hottest year on record in 2014 but obliterated the previous mark by nearly 2 degrees, federal scientists said Thursday, while experiencing firsthand some of the worst fears of a warming planet — from intensified drought to melting snowpack.
Thanks to December’s downpour, 1.3 million East Bay residents expecting to see a 14 percent hike in their water bill this month are getting a break — for now. The East Bay Municipal Utility District has postponed its emergency plan to pump Sacramento River water to local reservoirs as insurance against a prolonged drought.
Sacramento plodded through its hottest year on record in 2014, with an average high temperature a full degree above the city’s next-hottest year, according to a Bee analysis of records from the National Climatic Data Center.
For a while there, it felt like it might rain forever, or at least long enough to deliver a much-needed blow against the current drought. Well, those welcome, wet days brought on by a series of Pineapple Express storm systems have pretty much faded into the weather almanac, pushed aside by a familiar bully — the dreaded thermal inversion layer.
Humboldt County municipal water providers were nearly on par with water conservation efforts statewide in November with a nearly 10 percent reduction compared to the same month last year, according to a report from the State Water Resources Control Board.
California’s almond orchards have been thriving over the past decade and now provide an $11 billion annual boost to the state economy. … But the growth coincides with another record development here — drought — and the extensive water needs of nut trees are posing a sharp challenge to state water policy.
Pat yourself on the back, but don’t stop saving water. … Overall, November marked the first month that all San Joaquin communities registered major savings — though many still fell short of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 20 percent goal.
Wet weather at the end of last year helped Californians tame their insatiable demand for water, but consumption — particularly in Southern California — remains well above Gov. Jerry Brown’s target for the drought-stricken state.
The California Department of Water Resources does a great job assembling data that can give insights on water conditions during the ongoing drought. They update the information daily (which can be addictive for some of us) on the California Data Exchange Center website.
A cold snap this week brought snow and freezing temperatures to much of California during the final days of the year, but for the most part 2014 was hot. In fact, it was the warmest year for California since record-keeping began in 1877.
The only answer to the question of when the drought will end is that there’s no sure answer. … The major reservoirs in Northern California are below historical averages, but they are above the levels from 2014, which is cause for cautious optimism for some northern state water contractors.
California, its hand forced in 2014 by a nasty drought, brought its groundwater laws out of the Gold Rush era and into line with nearly every other state in the Union. New York’s Democratic governor banned fracking for natural gas, in large part because of concerns about water pollution.
One of the worst droughts on record forced California lawmakers and voters to implement far-reaching initiatives intended to change how the state manages water. And while the policy shifts last year were remarkable, Californians did not achieve the goal of conservation set by the governor.
Snow levels that didn’t quite measure up turned a snowshoe party in the Sierra into an exercise in hand-wringing on Tuesday as it became clear that recent storms have done little to end California’s historic drought.
California’s drought declaration has triggered only local limits such as restrictions on washing cars or watering lawns for most communities, but one Pacific Coast tourist town has seized it as an opportunity to build a long-desired desalination plant.
California’s drought really didn’t have an impact on me until last January when my wife, Linda, and I went to Folsom Lake to take our dog for a walk. Sure, I had seen that the American River was low when driving across the Watt Avenue Bridge.
Measurements of Sierra Nevada snowpack on Tuesday [Dec. 30] showed more snow than surveyors recorded a year ago. But state water officials said it was far from enough to signal a potential end to California’s continuing drought.
Billions of gallons of water have fallen on Los Angeles County since last week. And much of that kept right on going — out into storm drains, lost to the sea. Couldn’t we actually use that water? Yes, and we do.
Authorities have recovered thousands of stolen archaeological artifacts reportedly taken from Lake Oroville over the last 20 years. …State regulations, as well as other federal laws, protect items of cultural significance from being removed from public land.
I shared your confusion briefly last week. Readers called and emailed, wondering if the drought had ended after two separate news stories featuring the numbers 10 and 11 – each followed by 12 zeroes. We’re talking trillions of gallons of water.
People with professional expertise in California’s four-year drought — plus those just looking for something new to worry about — get it right about expecting too much from the recent series of storms.
The coastal tourist town of Cambria, located just below Big Sur and adjacent to Hearst Castle on California’s central coast, will begin pumping about 300 gallons a minute of treated water into the local aquifer this week. The new water source is part of a controversial emergency solution—built just this fall—to keep the community from running dry.
The Bay Area developed a warm glow Sunday on account of a once-familiar friend known as the sun. … National Weather Service forecasters reckon the fiery orb will be sticking around until Christmas Eve.
I love this cartoon because it says so much about water and droughts in California. Alan Marciochi drew this during the 1976-77 drought. He knew what he was drawing. A farm boy from Los Banos with a degree in biology, Alan worked for me studying endangered Modoc suckers in remote northeastern corner of California. His main stipulation in working for me was that he had to have the melon harvest season free.
Scientists have assessed the scale of the epic California drought and say it will require more than 40 cubic km of water to return the US state to normal. The figure was worked out by weighing the land from space.
There is a 75 percent probability of average or above-average precipitation between January and the end of March for California, according to a new report by federal scientists — the first time in five years such a wet outlook has been predicted in the state during the first three months of a year.
For the first time in five months, a majority of California is no longer considered to be in an exceptional drought, the most severe level possible under federal guidelines, the U.S. Drought Monitor announced Thursday.
A round black tub sits in David Montijo’s front yard, on a bed of gravel where his lawn used to be. … The plastic container, about 8 feet in diameter, is full up with rainwater that Montijo is collecting from his roof, the first of his Rain Recycler systems.
It’s hard to think about a drought after considering the amount of water we’ve seen this past week, but even if these storms continue into the New Year, California is still dangerously dry. That can only mean one thing: Southern California wants more water.
A series of rainstorms — one of which was powerful and destructive for residents statewide — helped deposit needed moisture to California, but it’s going to take 11 trillion gallons of water in storage to recover from the drought, NASA scientists said this week.
Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t the only one to visit Christmas Past. Every season our memory, however imperfect, whips out reminders of oft-told tales from a lifetime of Christmases in the wilds of the North Coast.
Somebody called this morning asking me if it was true that 10 trillion gallons of water had fallen on California in the last several days, as reported by several news outlets. Yes, it’s true a Florida meteorologist ran the numbers, figuring 1 inch of rain per square mile is worth 17,378,742 gallons.
The latest in a string of storms noisily marched across Southern California on Wednesday, hurling lightning bolts, coating mountains with snow and unleashing downpours that triggered a freeway-blocking mudslide before mostly moving on.
With a 14-year drought in the Colorado River basin showing few signs of breaking, states along the river’s path are taking new steps this month to ensure that Lake Mead — the Colorado River reservoir that is the water source for much of the Southwest — does not fail them.
NASA satellites that have been tracking California’s troubled water supplies from space generated a first-ever estimate of how much water the state needs to recover from the drought — an astonishing 11 trillion gallons. In other words, a whole lot.
After California’s driest three years on record, there have been few sounds as disturbing to water conservationists as the whisk-whisk-whisk of automatic lawn sprinklers kicking on directly behind TV reporters covering some of the state’s first heavy downpours in years.
There’s no way of predicting if Mother Nature will continue to shower the Bay Area when we turn the calendar to 2015, but this month is shaping up to be one of the wettest Decembers in decades — at least in some parts of the region.
The five federal and state agencies primarily involved in the operation and regulation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project have jointly released a draft Interagency 2015 Drought Strategy.