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.
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.
A 300-yard stretch of the Tuolumne River near Hughson shows one
of the many impacts of the ongoing drought. The river is thick
with water hyacinth, a plant that chokes the flow to the point
where it looks like you could walk across it.
The newly introduced iEfficient app is being used by 17 water
districts in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It allows
the user to take a photo and choose the offense from a
drop-down menu; GPS automatically logs the location coordinates
and routes the message to the correct agency.
California water regulators, alarmed by slack conservation
three years into a crippling drought, took the unprecedented
step last summer of establishing statewide restrictions and
gave communities a hammer to enforce them … With no statewide
data available, The Associated Press queried more than a dozen
communities around the state and found wide disparities in
The Lake Don Pedro community is operating in emergency
mode. For the last several weeks, work crews have drilled
well after well, hoping to find groundwater. … Lake
McClure depends entirely on rain and snow runoff from the
Merced River watershed.
National forests support some of the most pristine groundwater
and springs in the country – at least that’s what the most
successful water bottling companies advertise. Current policies
leave these springs exposed to exploitation, especially during
droughts, which are becoming more
intense. … According to an article in the Desert
Sun, the Forest Service has not investigated how pumping water
from Strawberry Creek will affect the environment or downstream
water users or required reporting of water use.
Some lawmakers are raising questions about the impacts of
bottled water companies on water supplies in California after a
Desert Sun investigation found little government oversight of
the amounts of water being tapped or the effects on the
The calendar may say it’s winter, but the sun is shining and
the trees are already in bloom. Still the early spring-like
weather isn’t enough to convince people in California that it’s
time for something like a coast-to-coast water pipeline.
A recent defining experience for communities in California, and
many other regions of the county, has been drought of an
intensity that hasn’t been seen in generations. The
severity of this drought has forced communities to address
questions about their ability to meet their basic water
needs. A common theme for many has been the critical role
of a reliable supply of ground water in their ability to
survive and thrive into the future.
Warm temperatures and a lack of snowfall in February have taken
a toll on winter snowpack in the Cascade Mountains and other
areas in the West, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation
Service said Wednesday.
Anyone who has stepped outside in the past year has undoubtedly
seen the effects of our state’s historic drought conditions.
… Southern California communities have rallied behind
desalinated ocean water as a reliable, safe and environmentally
friendly solution to long-term water shortages.
Unusually warm temperatures the past few days have made the
four-year drought worse for crops, so Modesto Irrigation
District leaders said Tuesday they’re inclined to start
farmers’ water season April 12 instead of two weeks later.
Levels at Sierra reservoirs that supply water for 1.3 million
East Bay customers are as low as they’ve been in nearly 40
years, and it could take a miracle to make them better before
the onset of the long dry season, officials were told Tuesday.
Facing a public outcry and some skepticism from their board of
directors, the top staff of the Silicon Valley’s largest
drinking water provider on Tuesday suggested reducing a
proposed drought-related water rate hike this year from 31
percent to 19 percent.
[Abelardo De Leon] Garcia, 81, had lost his water well on
Easter Sunday last year. Nearly a year later, his water supply
has been resurrected, thanks to federal funding and a
Visalia-based nonprofit called Self-Help Enterprises.
With a fourth year of drought looming, state and federal
agencies have launched an ambitious partnership to improve the
Sierra’s ability to store and filter water, as well as reduce
fire risks, by restoring its forests. Called the Sierra Nevada
Watershed Improvement Program …
Residents of this tiny western Fresno County town recently told
Fresno County supervisors that they don’t want to pay higher
bills for water service to their tiny community — even if it
means having their water shut off. If they don’t agree to pay
more, Cantua Creek residents will stop getting water as early
During the first three years of drought, Bay Area residents
have endured brown lawns, shorter showers and dirty cars. Now,
as the crisis stretches into the fourth year, they are about to
feel it in their wallets.
Las Vegas is seeking to quench its growing thirst by draining
billions of gallons of water from under the feet of ranchers
whose cattle help feed the Mormon church’s poor. A legal battle
across 275 miles of treeless ridges and baked salt flats comes
as the western U.S. faces unprecedented droughts linked to
How does the south San Joaquin Valley get some water in
back-to-back drought years while the east side goes without?
And, by the way, vast tracts of farmland on the Valley’s west
side also will be shut out.
“Whether we like it or not, our world is changing,” said Mark
Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, who was
in Chico Friday for the annual meeting of Northern California
State officials are considering additional modest regulations
on water use – from prohibiting irrigation within 48 hours of
rain to requiring districts to report their enforcement efforts
– but water experts say the recommendations missed
opportunities to address waste.
Had it not been for a couple of days of snowfall during the
weekend, the ground would have been bare, Frank Gehrke of the
Department of Water Resources said Tuesday during a snow survey
at Philips Station near Sierra-At-Tahoe Road.
Snowpack—which essentially serves as a water tower for the
western United States—produces vital meltwater that flows off
the mountains each spring. … But the snowpack is becoming
more like a snow gap, as temperatures in the Cascades and
Sierra Nevada become too warm for the snow that replenishes the
ecosystem each winter.
Surveys by the Department of Water Resources showed the
snowpack across the entire mountain range at 19 percent of
average for early March, a level deemed “alarmingly low” by
officials. … On March 17, the State Water Board will consider
extending emergency drought regulations and adding more
stringent conservation measures.
The typical Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
residential customer will see a $2.61 monthly billing increase
by July, as this winter’s low snow-pack means the agency has to
buy more expensive imported water.
State and federal officials favoring fish habitat are to blame
for the Oakdale Irrigation District’s tentative plan to drain
Tulloch Lake this summer, OID leaders told dozens of anxious
In a new study, published in the March 2 issue of the journal
of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
researchers led by Stanford professor Noah Diffenbaugh examined
the role that temperature has played in California droughts
over the past 120 years. They also examined the effect that
human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
are having on temperature and precipitation, focusing on the
influence of global warming upon California’s past, present and
future drought risk.
Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are at or below what they were
during the driest years in California’s recorded history,
surveyors said Tuesday, dashing hopes that last weekend’s storm
would begin to pull the state out of its increasingly frightful
California received a double dose of bad drought news on
Tuesday, with state officials saying the snowpack in the Sierra
Nevada is far below normal and that residents again aren’t
coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a 20
percent cut in water use.
Water consumption statewide declined just 8.8 percent in
January compared with the same month of 2013 – far below the
state’s goal of 20 percent – according to data presented to the
State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday.
Temperatures across the Bay Area soared to record highs this
winter, forecasters said Monday, the same day that a team of
Stanford researchers warned that the historic heat is helping
drive California’s crippling drought — with little sign of
A Field Poll released Thursday found 94 percent of registered
voters in California consider the state’s more than three-year
water shortage to be at least “serious,” with a full 68 percent
considering the situation “extremely serious.”
Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is altering Earth’s
most important atmospheric weather cell, drawing more moisture
into the deep tropics and broadening areas of drought at higher
latitudes, according to a new study.
Dread over the water shortage in California has grown to the
point that at least half the state’s residents are willing to
relax environmental regulations and allow construction of water
supply facilities in federal parkland, a statewide Field Poll