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.
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.
The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday a series of recent
storms have dropped up to four times the normal weekly rainfall
in some areas of the West. However, three-quarters of the
region remains in a long-term drought.
California’s historic drought is so bad people are banned from
even hosing dirt off their front steps, but as iconic
Candlestick Park is being demolished, thousands of gallons an
hour of drinking water — fresh from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir
— are being dumped on the rubble to hold down dust.
Environmental groups have long taken aim at bottled water
companies for contributing to the glut of plastic bottles that
clog landfills, streams and waterways. Now, amid California’s
drought, they’re looking at the water itself.
The Bureau of Reclamation and water users in California’s
Central Valley have forged an agreement that will bring some
much-needed Central Valley Project water supplies to farmers in
the CVP’s Friant Division this summer. … Weeks of
negotiations involving nearly all Friant Division contractors,
the Exchange Contractors, Westlands Water District, Reclamation
and other agencies paid off in an agreement reached May 7.
The state’s oil and gas agency has missed the deadline for
reporting on the use of water by oil producers in California,
saying that the large volume of information required could not
be processed in time.
In a wide field along a narrow two-lane road in the town of El
Centro, the grass is tall and rusty brown. … It’s a lush
wheat field, in tiptop health, today getting harvested by a guy
riding one of those big green combines.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is hoping to
foster partnerships with Sonoma County landowners in four
critical coho salmon spawning watersheds to help juvenile fish
survive a fourth year of drought.
The San Joaquin Valley’s tainted air might be getting an extra
dose of soot and ozone-forming gases this spring as growers
wrestle with the woody waste from dead citrus orchards. …
It’s more drought expense and woe in this broad farm belt where
thousands of growers for the second straight year have lost
river irrigation water for an area six times the footprint of
Even as they cope with their own cutbacks, several Sacramento
Valley water agencies are contemplating major water sales to
huge farming interests south of the Delta. … While the
dollars are tempting, area officials say water sales are also a
means of helping their fellow Californians.
Many of us could use a refresher course in California geography
as we debate how to manage the drought and prepare for an
uncertain water future. For starters, calling the hardest-hit
farm region the Central Valley is much too simplistic.
California water managers, reacting to the state’s increasingly
dire four-year-old drought, have taken an uncommon step to
ensure the quality of the fresh water flowing through
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a vital estuary that
supplies drinking water to southern California communities and
irrigation water to Central Valley farmers.
Pressed by the four-year dry spell and state-mandated water
cuts, some of the finest courses in California are taking such
steps as tearing out the grass in places where it won’t affect
the game, planting drought-resistant vegetation, letting the
turf turn brown in spots and installing smart watering systems.
The picture of the drought is bleak. Water managers told
lawmakers almost 2,000 wells are dry. They’ve observed
groundwater levels drop by more than two feet in over 40
percent of measured wells this spring.
Facing resistance to sweeping mandatory restrictions approved
last week for urban water districts, California water board
Chair Felicia Marcus defended the cuts as a matter of
“self-interest” at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
California’s drought emergency woes have worsened, with a
shortage on the Colorado River next year becoming increasingly
likely. Odds of a shortage rose from 33 percent to 50 percent
from April 1 to May 1, Metropolitan Water District, Southern
California’s largest water wholesaler, said Monday.
The Obama administration and Interior Department officials have
been absent as Californians grapple with the drought. They seem
content to plan and promote surface-water projects that won’t
contribute a drop of water for 20 to 25 years and will cost
taxpayers billions of dollars.
The water rationing plan, unveiled late Monday by the San Jose
Water Company, will make San Jose the largest city in
California so far to embrace strict rationing as the drought
drags into its fourth year.
A private water bottling company will soon be sucking up
thousands of gallons a day from an aquifer that feeds the
Sacramento River, the primary source of drinking water for
millions of thirsty Californians struggling to cope with a
The drought shaming started at the top last month, when Gov.
Jerry Brown, announcing water restrictions from a barren meadow
in the Sierra Nevada, mocked “the idea of your nice little
green grass getting lots of water every day.”
With drought impacts in full effect, some water agencies are
looking at desalination as way to improve water supplies. Now
the state Water Resources Control Board has passed an amendment
to its codes requiring new or expanded seawater desalination
plants to use the best available technology to protect all
forms of marine life.
“Less watering — less growth,” Public Utilities Director Thomas
Esqueda says. The result could be a blow to City Hall’s efforts
to meet state guidelines for solid-waste recycling and landfill
It’s hard to imagine a California summer without long days
lounging by the pool. But as unprecedented drought sears the
state, the backyard swimming pool has become a target for
cities desperate to save water.
Blessed by its perch at the confluence of two major rivers, the
Sacramento region has grown for generations in sprawling style,
confident that water would be there in ample supply. Even now,
amid a historic drought that has prompted deep, state-mandated
water cuts for urban users, capital area leaders show no sign
of backing off their plans for another major growth surge.
The acrid tap water that flowed for several days last month
into thousands of East Bay homes, prompting a flurry of
complaints about its bad taste and smell, will be making an
extended comeback starting next week — perhaps through the
year, or longer.
Local water suppliers and cities could now face major cuts in
revenue from water sales after the State Water Board approved a
set of drought regulations this week that seek to achieve a 25
percent in water use throughout the state.
Last month, after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to cut
back their water use, a retired engineering professor in Carmel
revived a decades-old proposal for easing the drought:
icebergs. … The suggestion was dutifully filed away in a
database of drought-relief ideas sent from around the state and
nation, compiled since the beginning of last year.