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.
Water departments across California, including dozens in the
Bay Area, are now looking to raise rates — in many cases by
double digits — to shore up revenues as customers use less
water during dry times and water sales plummet.
Facing severe statewide drought — and a mandate from Gov. Jerry
Brown — Southern California’s biggest water wholesaler gave
preliminary endorsement to a 15 percent cut in water
deliveries. … A motion for a deeper cut made by a
representative from San Diego County’s main water supplier, the
San Diego County Water Authority, was rejected.
Southern California’s water wholesaler Tuesday is poised to
impose a 15% cut in water deliveries to local cities and water
districts, a move that would bolster Gov. Jerry Brown’s
aggressive statewide conservation effort in the fourth year of
Almost every number used to analyze California’s drought can be
debated, but this can be safely said: No level of restrictions
on residential use can solve the problem. The solution lies
with agriculture, which consumes more than its fair share.
It was that kind of week in south San Joaquin and Stanislaus
counties, where the struggle over scarce water intensified,
with two agricultural water districts going so far as to
briefly defy a federal order to provide flows for fish.
Californians are definitely getting creative, water-saving
experts say. But if the state’s residents really knew where
their main sources of waste were, they might not obsess so much
over the small stuff.
He’s [San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer] among several
leaders of California cities, including Los Angeles,
proclaiming commitment to water conservation and vowing to move
ahead of the state in slashing water use with initiatives
including awareness programs, incentives and beefed-up
enforcement with warning letters and fines.
Every time drought strikes California, the people of this state
cannot help noticing the substantial reservoir of untapped
water lapping at their shores — 187 quintillion gallons of it,
more or less, shimmering so invitingly in the sun.
As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge
amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – and the prime suspects are
farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for
As California continues reeling from the drought, Gov. Jerry
Brown on Saturday headed into the farmlands north of
Sacramento, where concerns about the state’s parched spell are
mounting after a dry winter.
Modern irrigation — aided by the Hoover Dam and the
All-American Canal — transformed the Imperial Valley from a
hostile desert into an agricultural marvel: a testament to
generations of farmers and their use of cheap and plentiful
Among the California water officials who were left reeling on
Wednesday by the magnitude of the drought-related cutbacks they
will have to make was Tom Gray, the general manager of the Fair
Oaks Water District, outside Sacramento.
California’s water restrictions barreled ahead Wednesday with
stringent new standards for all toilets, urinals and faucets
sold in the state starting in 2016 — another sign that the
Golden State’s drought situation truly is circling the drain.
For the first time in California’s history, we are faced with
mandatory water use restrictions. After Gov. Jerry Brown made
this announcement last week, the Fresno Bee Editorial Board
asked on April 3, “Where is your long-term water plan, Gov.
Brown?” In January of 2014, the governor released the
California Water Action Plan — a five-year blueprint for
California water infrastructure and policy.
Water wasters in Shasta Lake take note: the City Council has
approved tripling fines for residents who use more than
two-thirds the average household’s amount after federal
officials slashed the town’s allocation to the minimum.
Business, however, is booming at the household recycled water
station in Pleasanton where water down the drain is converted
to drought relief for parched lawns and shrubs. Sewer plants in
Martinez and Livermore also have begun giving away reclaimed
water to drive-in customers, and plants in several other
California cities are considering it.
This is the summer that California’s relationship with water –
often wasteful – will undergo permanent change. That was the
message delivered Thursday by the state’s top water officials,
days after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the first-ever mandatory
statewide cutbacks in urban water use.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order requiring a 25% cut
in water use from 2013 levels has communities debating how best
to achieve the target. It will probably require several
weapons: more fines for chronic water wasters, education and
more tiered pricing that makes heavy water users pay
significantly more than light users.
A 25 percent cutback in urban water use – as Gov. Jerry Brown
imposed last week – is less a hardship on California residents
than an adjustment to a new reality. Droughts like the one
gripping California now are inevitable, though climate change
makes their frequency and severity unpredictable. We need to
change the way we use water, especially outdoors, to cope now
and into the future.
Based on the current elevation of Upper Klamath Lake and
forecasted inflows, the Klamath Project irrigation supply from
UKL is expected to be 254,500 acre-feet, or 65 percent of full
supply. The anticipated water supplies available from Clear
Lake Reservoir are zero acre-feet, and about 16,000 acre-feet
from Gerber Reservoir, or 47 percent of full supply.
The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts defied
the federal government Wednesday by diverting some Stanislaus
River water to a local reservoir, where it might help thirsty
crops, rather than releasing it down the river to benefit fish.
Because of the complex network of irrigation districts,
reservoirs and contracts on the 300 square mile Klamath
Reclamation District, some farmers will get 100 percent of what
they do in a wet year, while others will get zero, said Greg
Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown stood in a bone-dry meadow to order
historic water restrictions. On Wednesday, state officials took
the drought battle into Californians’ kitchens and bathrooms,
approving the nation’s most efficient standards for water
In the week after issuing an unprecedented statewide water use
reduction order, Gov. Jerry Brown labored to defend the
measure’s focus on urban water use instead of agriculture,
which consumes far more water than cities and towns. … But
while Brown defends agriculture’s heavy use of water, he is
also considering water rights curtailments that could
dramatically affect the industry.
The State Water Resources Control Board late Tuesday issued the
draft framework for forthcoming emergency regulations designed
to help the state conserve water in the face of severe drought.
… Draft emergency regulations will be released April 17.
Adoption is scheduled for May 5 or May 6.
California officials on Tuesday released a plan for achieving a
25-percent statewide reduction in water use, proposing
especially steep cuts of 35 percent in some areas that are
heavy water users, including Palm Springs and much of the
A mothballed desalination plant sits like a time capsule near
Santa Barbara’s main tourist beach, a relic of California’s
last drought to end all droughts. … The dilemma is the
focus of the latest installment of this newspaper’s ongoing
series “A State of Drought.”
The drought isn’t all bad. The famous clarity of Lake Tahoe is
greater than it’s been in more than a decade, UC Davis
researchers announced Tuesday, thanks in part to recent dry
years, which meant fewer pollutants running into the iconic
California cities face mandatory targets to slash water use as
much as 35 percent while regulators warn voluntary conservation
hasn’t been enough in the face of a devastating drought.
Underlining their point was data released Tuesday showing a new
low in saving water.
California officials seeking to cut urban water use by 25
percent amid the punishing drought said Tuesday that the best
way to get the job done is to spread the hurt unevenly,
slapping the biggest guzzling communities with mandatory cuts
up to 35 percent.
Californians in cities and towns across the state cut their
water usage only slightly – 2.8 percent — during February
compared with the same month in 2013, an indication that
despite the severity of the drought, conservation is not taking
As the state’s drought worsens, Californians are going backward
on water conservation, and on Tuesday state water officials
provided the first look at just how much each community will be
required to save.
The State Water Resources Control Board’s plan, unveiled
Tuesday, would place the heaviest conservation burden on cities
and towns with the highest rates of per-capita water
consumption, which would include small rural communities as
well as affluent enclaves like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills.
California American Water submitted a draft petition to the
state water board last month aimed at delaying the deadline for
reducing its river water pumping by four years from the end of
2016 to 2020. It promised to meet a series of milestones
including completion of a desalination plant capable of
providing a replacement water source for the Peninsula by the
Despite the drought, the lawns of Coachella will be as green as
ever when thousands descend on the Empire Polo Club in Indio
this Friday for the annual music festival. Those who manage the
grounds say they’ve been trying to gradually reduce their water
footprint while still keeping the polo club’s signature grassy
Look closely at the first-ever order for mandatory water
cutbacks in California. Just beyond the nine paragraphs that
start with “where as,” you find something San Joaquin Valley
residents should notice about the 25% reduction in water use.
Determined to erase its spotty water conservation record, the
wealthy coastal community of Newport Beach is among the
communities that are preparing to crack down on water guzzlers
and wasters in response to California’s worsening drought.
When Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the first-ever statewide water
cuts last week, there was consternation across California, with
folks everywhere wondering how they could ever chop their water
use by 25 percent. But Brown’s executive order is no big deal
to cities in Alameda County’s Tri-Valley area, where that fight
went down a year ago.
The State Water Resources Control Board hopes to
announce a preliminary framework by Tuesday that
will outline how it plans to implement the historic
mandatory water restrictions Gov. Jerry Brown ordered last
Faced with dwindling regional reserves and a fourth year of
drought, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
is expected to vote next week to ration imported water that it
supplies to 26 Southland water districts and cities, something
the agency has done only twice before.
Here’s a key fact to keep in mind: “Simply because the money
has been awarded or encumbered doesn’t mean that it’s been
spent,” explains Sacramento State political analyst Steve
Boilard, a veteran state budget watcher.
The California Department of Transportation announced Thursday
that it has allocated emergency funding to continue to install
smart sprinklers on state property in response to California’s
Two suburban water agencies serving half a million people
combined in suburban Sacramento and Placer counties have
stepped up merger negotiations, saying they can better survive
the drought as a larger organization.
Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature announced a $1.1
billion drought relief plan for California. But the $660
million allocated for flood management had many observers
scratching their heads.
Curbing Californians’ passion for watering their lawns will be
central to the campaign to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s demand for a
25 percent reduction in water consumption this year, state and
local water officials said.
Welcome, central San Joaquin Valley residents, to new rules for
surviving Drought 2015. Local cities are hustling to figure out
how they’ll comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive
order listing 31 drought-fighting mandates.
Gov. Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent water reduction in
California, but what that means won’t be clear until the state
water board sets the rules in May. … Some local entities,
such as Butte College, haven’t seen new rules stemming from the
governor’s order, but have already taken steps to reduce usage.
The biggest mandated cutback on water use in California history
is landing like a cold shower on park departments, cemetery
owners, golfers, manicured-lawn lovers and others who
appreciate the type of greenery that has essentially become an
enemy of the state.
The fourth year of the devastating drought that has dried up
wells, forced mandatory rationing and jeopardized California
crops has also put a burden on backcountry skiers in search of
their powdery fix.
This morning [April 1] Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los
Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to
conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level
together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above
sea level. The lake has declined to a level at which water
exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water
Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%.
Even while [Gov. Jerry] Brown faces the short-term consequences
of the drought — including the potential for budget-draining
wildfires and decreased agricultural production — he is
pursuing long-term projects that he says will strengthen
California’s highly engineered water systems.
When Gov. Jerry Brown issued the first statewide water use
reduction order in California history on Tuesday, he put his
emphasis squarely on cities and towns…. As Californians
mulled Brown’s unprecedented order, some wondered why farms
were not being asked to sacrifice more.
The Sierra snowpack is a ghastly one-fifth the size of the
smallest one ever recorded in the mountain range, state leaders
said Wednesday as California’s storm season ended in
disappointment for the fourth straight year. … Gov. Jerry
Brown, who watched a snow measurement Wednesday at Lake Tahoe,
announced the state’s first mandatory water reductions, aiming
at cutting water use by 25%.
Gary Whitlock watched water run down to the sidewalk as
gardeners hosed down a bed of marigolds outside an Orange
County office building and questioned if California’s latest
attempt to curb water use would be any more successful than
previous ones in the drought-stricken state.
Mr. [Gov. Jerry] Brown, in an executive order, directed the
State Water Resources Control Board to impose a 25 percent
reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies, which
serve 90 percent of California residents, over the coming year.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s order Wednesday for a 25% mandatory cut
in water use, a response to the state’s devastating drought,
comes almost four decades after the governor faced a similar
water crisis that pitted water-rich Northern California against
its thirsty southern neighbors.
Standing in a dry brown meadow that typically would be buried
in snow this time of year, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday
ordered the first mandatory water cutbacks in California
history, a directive that will affect cities and towns
Standing in a brown field that would normally be smothered in
several feet of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered
cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as
part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the
first in state history.
The Dublin San Ramon Services District says its path toward
buying surplus Yuba County water is clearer after the
Tri-Valley’s wholesale water supplier — Alameda County Zone 7
Water agency — withdrew its earlier protest against the
We are officially in uncharted territory. The Sierra Nevada
snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of
California’s water, is showing the lowest water content on
record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1.
State water officials bolstered existing emergency regulations
this month in response to another year of drought. … But
unlike during water crises of the 1970s and 1990s, there was no
mention of sending water wasters to jail.
Most years, 85% of the wet season’s rain and snow has already
fallen by late March. While rain often falls in April and May,
it is rarely enough to make a big difference in the overall
water picture, and the forecast is now quite dry. That means
California’s water managers now have a good idea how much water
will be available in the state’s reservoirs, snowpack, and
While Yuba City residents are looking at the likelihood of
mandatory water restrictions for the rest of this year,
Marysville citizens aren’t facing the same water challenges.
… Q&A: Marysville’s Water Supply
Pressured by a relentless drought that produced the lowest
winter snowfall in history and shows no signs of lifting,
California’s local and state government administrators are
responding with emergency measures that reflect their concern
that the state is actually running out of water.
In drought-ravaged California, the vast freshwater aquifer
beneath the Coachella Valley is a rare bright spot. … But
there is growing concern by some that local water agencies are
drawing too much out of the aquifer, which supplies water for
more than 260,000 people.
He’s [John Bess of Baltimore] searching for water leaks in the
city’s [San Francisco] underground pipelines with a special
microphone and earpiece that enables him to hear escaping water
from the street — rather than having to dig down and find it.
East Bay residents first noticed a bitter taste in their tap
water on Saturday. … It turns out the taste, and a foul odor
associated with it, comes from algae in the Pardee Reservoir,
which supplies most of the drinking water for East Bay
Municipal Utility District customers.
The drought’s impacts are worsened by record heat, which has
dried out soils and raised the demands for irrigation, and the
historical high levels of California’s population, economy, and
agricultural production, and historical low levels of native
fish species. … No “Miracle March” this year. … Snowpack is
a little worse than last year, perhaps the driest on record
During the widespread drought, officials are struggling to
finish large-scale water infrastructure projects while
populations are growing, drinking water resources are
dwindling, and federal dollars are diminishing.
State and federal water agencies again are seeking permission
to bypass water-quality rules in the Delta in order to hold
back more water in upstream reservoirs while pumping a limited
amount south from the estuary.
The water frozen in snow throughout the Sierra Nevada is 8% of
average — less than a third the size of the smallest on record.
On Wednesday when this disappointing wet season ends, the
headlines will be the next alarm bell in the state’s damaging,
The $1 billion emergency drought aid package announced by
Governor Jerry Brown last week has cleared the California
Legislature. But a late addition to one of the measures has
Republicans and farmers upset.
Two new documentaries about California’s struggles with
dwindling water supplies will be shown back-to-back at the
American Documentary Film Festival this weekend, one focusing
on the state’s epic drought and the other examining the looming
environmental problems of the shrinking Salton Sea.
Not only will the $1-billion spending plan approved by
lawmakers Thursday provide little immediate relief to
drought-stricken Californians, state leaders are missing an
opportunity to take more decisive action to restrict water use,
conservation advocates said.
Article after article in newspapers, magazines and online put
nut growers in a bad light related to the
drought. … I planted my almonds based on a contract
with the federal government to deliver surface water from
By 3 a.m. [Dave] Lunsford was loading his tanker truck with
about 140,000 fingerling Chinook salmon to haul from Coleman
National Fish Hatchery in Anderson to Rio Vista in the Bay
Area. … The young salmon are usually released from Coleman
into nearby Battle Creek, so they can make their way into the
Sacramento River and downstream, eventually reaching the
Senators approved Assembly bills 91 and 92 on votes of 35-1 and
24-14, respectively, after Republicans deliberated in a lengthy
caucus meeting and then castigated the bill for broadening
government powers over water. The Assembly expects to take up
the measures Thursday, after which the package would go to Gov.
Jerry Brown if passed.
Wednesday night’s poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy
Institute of California suggests a growing sense of gloom and
frustration across the state about the historic drought that’s
now in its fourth straight year.
Already cities and water districts in the North State and
beyond have been working to broker water transfers, remind
folks about restrictions and take other steps in the hopes of
meeting demand during the peak summer months.
After several years in the field assessing cannabis cultivation
sites, counting plants from Google Earth views and calculating
stream flows, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife team
has released a comprehensive paper revealing the affects of
marijuana cultivation on the North Coast’s watersheds.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District board Tuesday night
approved a $17.5 million project that will deepen the use of
recycled water in the parched South Bay and make Apple’s
futuristic new campus a little bit greener.
Pat Mulroy, the former leader of the Southern Nevada Water
Authority, delivered a bluntly worded warning to attendees at
the California Water Policy Conference in Claremont, saying the
linkage between the Delta and much of the West is clear, “yet
many here in California still don’t see the connection.”
The drought has been a proverbial punch in the mouth, and the
drought – and California’s response to it – raise important
questions about the viability and wisdom of the draft Bay Delta
Conservation Plan (BDCP). So what does that punch in the mouth
(drought) mean for BDCP?
Fresno County Board of Supervisors declared a drought emergency
Tuesday so it can obtain state and federal government
reimbursement for local drought emergency costs. … The board
also supported water restrictions in five unincorporated areas
with about 400 customers.
In one of the most aggressive drought-spawned conservation
goals in the Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is
proposing reducing water use by 30 percent and limiting
watering of lawns to twice a week.
When drought makes water scarcer in California, those with
senior water rights are offered more money to move their water
to other users. But fish are asked to give up their water for
free. … For California, even partial markets for
environmental water would satisfy the state’s stated “co-equal”
environmental and economic goals for water management.
If and when Lake Mead hits 1,075 feet, the government will
declare a federal water shortage for the seven states that draw
water from the Colorado River, forcing Nevada and the others to
limit water use. … Despite the sobering predictions, former
Las Vegas water czar Pat Mulroy is confident life will go on in
Irrigation leaders were pleased to learn in a recent meeting
that groundwater levels in the Oakdale Irrigation District’s
wells have dropped less than 4 1/2 inches in the past year, on
average, despite record pumping. But those numbers were based
on data from only three-fourths of OID’s deep wells, a Modesto
Bee analysis found.
Unless significant rain falls this spring, state regulators are
likely to repeat last year’s unprecedented curtailment of
hundreds of water rights held by farmers and others along the
Russian River between Lake Mendocino and Healdsburg.
Flying over the Sierra Nevada as California entered its fourth
year of drought, the state’s energy chief looked down and saw
stark bare granite cloaked in dirty brown haze – not the usual
pristine white peaks heaped with snow that would run the
state’s hydroelectric dams for the year.
With the state entering its fourth year of drought, some
conservationists are looking at thinning Sierra forests to
increase the amount of water that flows into area rivers. …
On Friday, the Association of California Water Agencies also
released its own report that calls for better headwater and
forest management – and for better collaboration among federal,
state and other agencies, and other stakeholders.
Lawmakers are proposing emergency legislation, state officials
are clamping down on watering lawns and, as California enters a
fourth year of drought, some are worried that the state could
run out of water.
The [U.N.] report, released in New Delhi two days before World
Water Day, calls on policymakers and communities to rethink
water policies, urging more conservation as well as recycling
of wastewater as is done in Singapore.
At the close of another dry winter, Gov. Jerry Brown and
legislative leaders announced a $1 billion package of bills
Thursday to expedite money for people and cities hit hard by
the drought and prepare the state for the flip side of extreme
weather patterns — flooding.
A few weeks ago, a story began circulating on social media that
suggested maybe, just maybe, this drought is a hoax. After all,
if things are really as bad as we’re told, why haven’t
authorities started rationing water yet? The cognitive
dissonance is rooted in blinkered and shortsighted public
Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers from both parties unveiled a
plan that would invest more than $1 billion to improve the
state’s water infrastructure, provide emergency assistance to
struggling communities and protect wildlife.
State water leaders Thursday told water district leaders,
farmers, bankers and many others at California State
University, Fresno, to expect possibly a record-breaking small
snowpack. … The briefing, sponsored by the state Department
of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation, is an
attempt to explain the dire situation after four years of
With California entering its fourth year of drought, Gov. Jerry
Brown and legislative leaders will propose more than $1 billion
in emergency legislation Thursday for flood protection and
water supply projects and to alleviate impacts of the drought.
In our new report, Policy Priorities for Managing Drought, we
highlight four areas that need reform to reduce the economic,
social, and environmental harm from drought in California: 1)
improving water use information; 2) setting clear goals and
priorities for public health and the environment; 3) promoting
water conservation and more resilient water supplies; and 4)
strengthening environmental management.
The rainy season drove into California in December with wet and
windy promise: soaking rain, snow, dark gray skies and a flash
of hope that the drought that has scorched this region had run
its course. And then came January — with record high
temperatures and record low rainfall.
As California enters a fourth year of drought, 90% of
Californians say they are willing to make significant
changes to conserve water use both indoors and outdoors
according to a new statewide poll commissioned by ACWA in
partnership with Save Our Water.
Acknowledging that California’s water conservation efforts are
falling short as the state descends into a fourth year of
punishing drought, the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown on
Tuesday imposed new mandatory water conservation rules that
will affect millions of people — from how homeowners water
their lawns to how restaurants and hotels serve their guests.
California, as you might have heard, is running out of water.
Very, very quickly. … Perhaps you read NASA senior water
scientist Jay Famiglietti’s rather terrifying op-ed in the LA
Times, declaring that, by all available measures, our state has
only one year of water storage left?
California regulators on Tuesday ordered every water agency in
the state to restrict how often customers can water their
landscaping, an unprecedented move that marks another milestone
in the severe and ongoing drought.
With California heading into another parched year, state
officials Tuesday beefed up emergency drought regulations,
directing urban agencies to limit the number of days residents
can water their yards.
State officials will be in Fresno on Thursday to tell the
public how dire California’s four-year drought has become. …
The briefing is sponsored by the California Department of Water
Resources and the nonprofit Water Education Foundation, based
The State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento will
consider sweeping mandates on landscape irrigation Tuesday that
could limit water usage for most California homes and
businesses to only a few days of the week.
Los Angeles is offering rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley
more money than the city has ever paid for water — $700 per
acre-foot. At this price, rice farmers could make more money
selling water than they can make on their crops.
Amid the worst drought in at least a generation, and possibly
the worst in modern California history, the state Water
Resources Control Board today will consider tougher
restrictions on outdoor watering by residential and business
users. The action is long overdue.