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.
The drought could be crippling but the wine will be good. That
is the happy conclusion of a study published today in the
journal, Science. … That means farmers may not need to water
their vineyards as much as previously thought during a dry
Hampered by hot weather and a stubborn high-pressure ridge that
has blocked winter storms, California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack
— a key source of the state’s water supply — on Tuesday was a
paltry 30 percent of normal. The last time there was so little
Sierra snow at the end of January was in 2015, when it was 25
percent of its historic average.
A dystopian drama is unfolding in Cape Town, a popular tourist
destination of nearly 4 million on the coast of South Africa
that in April is expected to become the modern world’s first
major city to run out of water after three years of drought.
For Californians, who panted through five years of record
drought before last winter and have seen a fairly dry winter so
far this year, it raises the worrisome question: Could it
California’s recent wildfires have been nearly unprecedented in
terms of their destructiveness and size and the season in which
they burned. The Thomas Fire, for example, has grown into one
of the largest wildfires in the state’s history, devouring
thousands of acres daily as it moves from Ventura to Santa
Barbara at a time of year more prone to gray skies and cold
rain than burning forests.
Rising temperatures from climate change are having a noticeable
effect on how much water is flowing down the Colorado River. Read
the latest River Report to learn more about what’s
happening, and how water managers are responding.
With the country and the world facing increasing strain on
water resources, beer companies, including craft brewers, are
learning how to do more with less water. … Craft
brewers have recently struggled with water shortages in the
American West. During the California drought, the city of Chico
asked Sierra Nevada Brewing to reduce its water usage by more
than 30 percent.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Californians are beginning to wonder: Is the state heading back
into a drought? While experts say it’s still too early in the
winter rainy season to say for sure, the evidence is
accumulating, and the rain is definitely not.
California’s already towering Sierra Nevada summits rose to new
heights during the drought, albeit by just a hair. A study by
NASA scientists published Wednesday found that the granite
peaks of the 400-mile range were pushed nearly an inch upward
between 2011 and 2015, a phenomenon linked not only to known
tectonic forces but the expansion of the land as it dried out
and shed water weight.
The Sierra Nevada mountains grew nearly an inch taller during
the recent drought and shrank by half an inch when water and
snow returned to the area, according to new research from
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
Researchers used 1,300 GPS stations throughout the mountain
range to closely observe how its elevation changed during the
States, federal and Mexican officials hailed a binational
agreement this fall that they said could lead to a radical
shift in how the region prepares for and responds to drought.
But three months later, they appear no closer to a drought
contingency plan, as negotiations have pitted states and water
districts against one another, as the U.S. tries to hammer out
details of the plan.
California’s forests are seeing a continued die-off of trees
even a year after last year’s heavy rains ended the state’s
crippling drought. The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday
that 27 million trees died over the past 13 months after five
dry years left them severely dehydrated and vulnerable to bark
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges
facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent
drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water
managers and others are trying to face the future.
Winter is off to a dry start across the West, raising the
specter of ongoing drought in many locations. The culprit could
be La Niña – a periodic cooling of Pacific Ocean waters near
the equator that often brings drought. And not just any La
Niña, but a “double whammy” effect, which latest research
concludes may cause even worse water shortages.
Severe wildfire seasons like the one that has devastated
California this fall may occur more frequently because of
climate change, scientists say. … The reason is an expected
impact of climate change in California: increasing year-to-year
variability in temperature and precipitation that will create
greater contrast between drought years and wet years.
Hot, dry Santa Ana winds will likely whip up the unseasonably
fierce wildfires ravaging Southern California on Thursday,
forecasters said. The gales have come at the worst time, at the
end of a long dry spell.
Even before the dramatic Southern California wildfires began
their harrowing path this week, California was already
experiencing its deadliest and most destructive fire season
ever. And it’s only getting worse. … For Californians
who welcomed one of the wettest, drought-busting winters early
in 2017, the fury of the fires is startling.
California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and
more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather
patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from
reaching the state, according to new research led by scientists
at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
It could be a record year for salmon on the Mokelumne River,
but not without some extraordinary human intervention. More
than 15,200 adult salmon had returned to the fish hatchery
below Camanche Dam as of last week. … This year’s strong
return is good news in part because it shows how changes in
hatchery operations can help fish survive the aftermath of a
It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun
Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River. The
numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water
temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading
to the ocean during the drought.
For decades, no matter the weather, the message has been
preached to Californians: use water wisely, especially
outdoors, which accounts for most urban water use. Enforcement
of that message filters to the local level, where water
agencies routinely target the notorious “gutter flooder” with
gentle reminders and, if necessary, financial
penalties. The situation turned critical during the 2012
to 2016 drought, when reservoirs sank to alarmingly low
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Last spring, the outlook for California’s 2017 Chinook salmon
fishing season was dire. Years of drought had taken a toll on
the rivers where salmon spawn, reducing them to lukewarm
trickles. As a result, the number of adult fish was seriously
depleted, reported scientists with the Pacific Fishery
Droughts and floods are both a part of life in California as
2017 has so clearly demonstrated: It took one of the wettest
winters on record to pull the state from the depths of a
five-year drought. The state has invested funds in bulking
up drought and flood protection in the past, but recent events
highlighted the necessity of rejuvenating those efforts.
In a state with such topsy-turvy weather as California, the
ability of forecasters to peer into the vast expanse of the
Pacific Ocean and accurately predict the arrival of storms is a
must to improve water supply reliability and flood management
The problem, according to Jeanine Jones, interstate resources
manager with the state Department of Water Resources, is
that “we have been managing with 20th century
technology with respect to our ability to do weather
California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, who
lives in Santa Cruz, said the state will be in trouble if
another drought strikes as federal support remains uncertain.
Key U.S. departmental vacancies could hamper negotiations for
emergency relief, Laird said after the Democratic Women’s Club
of Santa Cruz County meeting Saturday.
California could one day be uninhabitable. Fire. Heat. Floods.
… Decamping for the 23rd session of the Conference of
the Parties to the U.N. Convention on Climate Change,
California academics and political leaders were mulling how to
better deploy the distressing projections to give unwary
citizens a better understanding of what’s at stake and compel
them to see the wisdom of embracing sustainability.
Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious
questions are once again being asked about the safety of
overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and
fierce winds. On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators
have started looking into whether toppled power wires and
exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the
simultaneous string of blazes.
A cascade of extreme weather events fed Northern California’s
wildfires that exploded Sunday: Unusually high winds blew
flames through unusually dense and dry vegetation, which sprung
up following last winter’s heavy rains and then were toasted by
months of record hot temperatures.
A lot of people and jobs in the Southwest rely on water from
the Colorado River. According to a University of Arizona study,
the river system contributes more than $840 billion to the
Gross State Products of Arizona and California alone. But the
region’s in a long-running drought.
The number of salmon returning to spawn at Coleman National
Fish Hatchery in Anderson could reach historic lows this year
— a legacy of the five-year drought that ended last year.
At this time of year dozens of salmon would normally be teeming
in the waters of Battle Creek near the hatchery.
Good habits die hard, it seems, after five years of epic
drought – for most Californians, anyway. The historic dry
spell from 2012 to 2016 prompted many state residents to reduce
their water consumption, as did strict regulations imposed by
state agencies and individual water districts.
SOUTHWEST (California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and
Arizona) -The average annual temperature has already gone up
1.56 degrees since 1901-1960 and is projected to rise another
4.8 degrees by mid-century and 8.65 degrees by the end of the
century if carbon pollution continues unabated.
East Porterville took by far the hardest hit in the [San
Joaquin] valley during the drought, state officials say. …
The State Water Resources Control Board has responded with
$35 million to connect East Porterville’s 300-plus dry
homes to Porterville’s system. Another 400 homeowners who
didn’t lose their wells have opted into the Porterville hookup
to prevent future water problems.
Since the state’s drought officially ended earlier this year,
there’s also been a precipitous drop in Californians worrying
about having enough water. Last July, 62 percent said water
supply was a big problem for the state.
Visitors to North Lake Tahoe this summer will notice the steady
flow of the Truckee River, the high water level of Lake Tahoe,
and dense green growth that has sprung up across the region
thanks to record snow and rainfall this winter. But they’ll
also see an increasing number of dead trees.
Several years of drought had severely depleted the Kern, a
popular whitewater rafting destination known for its dramatic
rapids. But this year’s wet winter created a record Sierra
Nevada snowpack, and the melt has engorged the river with
swift, frigid water.
As drought and water shortages become California’s new normal,
more and more of the water that washes down drains and flushes
down toilets is being cleaned and recycled for outdoor
irrigation. But some public officials, taking cues
from countries where water scarcity is a fact of life, want to
take it further and make treated wastewater available for much
more — even drinking.
The seemingly contradictory weather conditions — a heat wave
and mountains still piled high with snow — are one final legacy
of a historic winter that brought the most rain ever recorded
in Northern California. Months of back-to-back storms finally
pulled California out of its five-year drought. But they left
behind up to 200 inches of snow.
During drought, people conserve water. That’s a good thing for
public water agencies and the state as a whole but the reduction
in use ultimately means less money flowing into the budgets of
those very agencies that need funds to treat water to drinkable
standards, maintain a distribution system, and build a more
“There are two things that can’t happen to a water utility – you
can’t run out of money and you can’t run out of water,” said Tom
Esqueda, public utilities director for the city of Fresno. He was
a panelist at a June 16 discussion in Sacramento about drought
resiliency sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California
People came here for the forest, to live among 200-foot-tall
pine trees that shaded their mountain cabins and scented the
air. But in the span of two short years, tens of thousands of
those trees are gone, ravaged by bark beetles until their green
needles turned orange.
Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno recently claimed
Gov. Jerry Brown has slashed nearly all the money in the
state’s budget to help local governments remove dead and dying
trees in California’s forests. More than 100 million trees have
died in the forests due to drought and bark beetle infestations
Already faced with unprecedented low numbers of returning
salmon and drastically reduced fishing allowances, California’s
fishing fleets and communities are not expected to find any
relief in the next few years, according to testimony by a host
of experts and regulators at the State Capitol on Wednesday.
The massive scale of California’s groundwater pumping is
outlined in a study released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA
and the University of Houston. The researchers conclude that
California’s pending groundwater regulations remain woefully
behind what is necessary to bring the state’s groundwater
levels back into balance.
Researchers have issued a dire warning for California’s native
trout and salmon: Three-quarters of them will be extinct in the
next 100 years unless urgent action is taken. This bleak
assessment came Tuesday from biologists at the UC Davis Center
for Watershed Sciences and from California Trout, a nonprofit
From the Central Coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills, spring
winds have dried timber and brush after a historically wet
winter that isn’t expected to relieve the 2017 wildfire threat,
a Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit official said. Gov. Jerry
Brown on Monday proclaimed Wildfire Awareness Week, citing a
rise in dangerous wildfires in recent years.
A bill intended to prevent dying trees damaged by drought
from falling onto utility lines on publicly owned
federal land, sparking wildfires and electricity blackouts,
passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on
First the drought ended. Now the last vestiges of mandatory
conservation rules are over, too. California’s main water
regulatory agency ended mandatory conservation regulations for
urban residents Wednesday, following Gov. Jerry Brown’s
official declaration that the drought ended April 7.
California’s brutal five-year drought did more than lead to
water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills
statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and
greenhouse gases, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Californians’ electricity costs jumped by a combined $2.45
billion from 2012 to 2016 because of severe shortages of cheap
hydroelectricity, according to an estimate released Wednesday
by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy think tank.
California’s historic five-year drought is officially over,
washed away with the relentlessly drenching rains, floods and
snowstorms of this winter. But just as tougher building codes
and better emergency planning follow major earthquakes, the
brutally dry years from 2012 to 2016 are already leaving a
legacy, experts say, changing the way Californians use
water for generations to come.
Knee-high tufts of grass dot the streets of Hardwick, a rural
neighborhood with a few dozen homes hemmed in by vineyards and
walnut and almond orchards in California’s agriculture-rich San
California’s climate has long been dominated by cycles of
intense dry conditions followed by heavy rain and snow. But
never before in recorded history has the state seen such an
extreme drought-to-deluge swing.
For the second year in a row, California officials are likely
to shorten the chinook salmon season, making the local
specialty costly and hard to find throughout the summer and
possibly beyond. … The low numbers are due to lingering
effects of the drought, because impacts on the population are
felt about three or four years behind years with little rain.
After one of the wettest winters on record, Gov. Jerry Brown
declared Friday that California’s historic drought is
officially over for all but a handful of areas in the Central
Valley. But after five years of severely dry conditions,
California also is pressing forward with a dramatic overhaul of
its conservation ethic for farms to cityscapes.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared the end of California’s drought
emergency on Friday, stressing that water conservation must
be a permanent part of life as the state adapts to climate
change and prepares for the next drought.
tartlingly green hills, surging rivers and the snow-wrapped
Sierra Nevada had already signaled what Gov. Jerry Brown made
official Friday: The long California drought is over. Brown
issued an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in
all but a handful of San Joaquin Valley counties where some
communities are still coping with dried-up wells.
California looks to be resuscitated this spring, with green
stretching the length of the state and the desert erupting in a
colorful mosaic fueled by a super bloom of flowers. The state’s
wet winter has erased a surface drought more than five years in
the making. Now, many reservoirs have been topped off, rivers
are running and the snowpack – so meager just two years ago as
to be almost unmeasurable – is piled 50ft (15m) high in
Farmers employ tens of thousands of people in the San Joaquin
Valley and run a $35 billion industry producing grapes, milk,
oranges, almonds and dozens of other commodities sold in stores
around the globe. Many of them supported Donald Trump for
president, calculating that his promise to deliver more water
to drought-starved valley farms would help them despite his
hard-line stance on immigration.
Last summer it was a jarring symbol of California’s historic
five-year drought. San Luis Reservoir — the vast lake along
Highway 152 between Gilroy and Los Banos, the state’s
fifth-largest reservoir and a key link in the water supply for
millions of people and thousands of acres of Central Valley
farmland — was just 10 percent full.
California’s water regulators are looking to strengthen their
focus on climate change, adopting policies aimed at helping the
state prepare for more severe floods, more extreme droughts and
One year ago, just 5 percent of California was classified as
free from drought. That number has been turned nearly upside
down, and as of Thursday, 91 percent of the state is no longer
in drought condition, according to federal scientists.
Going, going, but not gone yet. About 47 percent of
California still faces a drought, and the conditions are severe
in 11 percent of the state, according to the most recent weekly
report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Both drought and floodwaters are testing California’s aging
water infrastructure. A new NASA analysis shows too much
groundwater pumping during the drought has caused the
California Aqueduct to sink more than two feet near Avenal in
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that less than 2 percent of
California is still experiencing severe drought impacts, but
that small area is concentrated in southern Santa Barbara
County and parts of neighboring Ventura and Los
A healthy snow pack and steady rain have offered a fresh
outlook to over five years of drought in California but the
State Water Resources Control Board is expected to extend
emergency regulations due to water supply problems in areas
such as the Central Coast.
California’s historic drought may be winding down. But water
officials across the Golden State are increasingly exploring a
hidden but promising way to add to the state’s water supply:
removing salt from the billions of gallons of brackish — or
distastefully salty — water that lies deep below the Earth’s
Roaring storms that brought California almost a year’s worth of
snow and rain in a single month should make state water
managers’ Sierra snowpack survey Thursday a celebration,
marking this winter’s dramatic retreat of the state’s more than
5-year-drought, water experts say.
The ponderosa pine had taken root decades before the
Revolutionary War, making a stately stand on this
western Sierra Nevada slope for some 300 years, Nate
Stephenson figures. Then came the beetle blitzkrieg.
Governor Brown has released a proposed budget that reaffirms
the state’s commitment to boosting drought resiliency and
battling climate change. … Although state money represent
only a fraction of California’s total water sector spending
(13%—the rest is mostly locally funded), it is an important
piece of the funding pie.
San Luis Reservoir west of Los Banos is on its way to filling
for the first time since 2011 as rain and snow bring the state
additional relief from a punishing drought. Statewide, a series
of storms over the past two weeks have allowed water managers
to fill major reservoirs to above-normal levels for this time
Much of California has gone from withered to water-logged this
winter, but the state’s top water regulator is not ready to
lift emergency conservation measures enacted during the height
of the drought. … Water districts have been lobbying the
board to back down.
With storms drenching much of California and snow blanketing
the Sierra Nevada, the state’s top water regulators are
grappling with how to shift from conservation rules devised
during more than five years of drought to a long-term strategy
for using water more sustainably.
With major reservoirs nearly full, the Sierra Nevada snowpack
well above average and flood warnings in place for some rivers,
federal scientists reported Thursday a continued weakening of
California’s drought. … Even as state officials urged
caution, they announced Wednesday that cites [sic] and farms
will receive at least 60 percent of the maximum amount of water
they are contracted to buy in the coming year from the State
Water Project, up from just 20 percent two months ago.
The worst area of drought in California has significantly
narrowed to a small region northwest of Los Angeles that has
stubbornly failed to benefit from Pacific storms that have
drenched much of the state since the fall and were lining up
Deluged with a series of relentless storms this winter, more
than 40 percent of California — including the Bay Area — is no
longer in a drought for the first time in four years, a stark
turnaround after one of the worst natural disasters in state
history, a new federal report said Thursday morning.
Rescue workers used boats and firetrucks to evacuate dozens of
Northern California residents from their flooded homes
Wednesday as a drought-busting series of storms began to move
out of the region after days of heavy rain and snow that
toppled trees and created havoc as far north as Portland,
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday released a $177.1 billion spending
plan that contains funds for drought, water rights management,
continuation of the statewide conservation program Save Our
Water and other key water programs.
As a result of the nearly weeklong deluge, water is flowing
into California lakes and reservoirs, prompting dam operators
to release supplies in advance of a storm expected next week.
But it’s too early to say if the series of storms is a
If the storm systems keep coming, state and regional water
managers say, 2017 could be the end of a dry spell that has,
for more than five years, caused crops to wither,
reservoirs to run dry and homeowners to rip out their lawns and
The powerful storms that soaked Northern California over the
past week did more than trigger power outages, mudslides and
flash floods. … Officially, California’s drought won’t
end until Gov. Jerry Brown rescinds or revises the emergency
drought declaration he signed in January 2014.
A lull in a series of powerful winter storms gave Northern
California a chance Monday to clean up from widespread flooding
while also assessing how all that moisture is altering the
state’s once-grim drought picture.
After many long years of waiting, California’s drought relief
may finally be here. … Central California is on track to
be the second wettest water year on record, and Southern
California is expected to tie the wettest year, which was the
year of ‘68-’69.
As much of the state heads into a sixth year of drought, water
officials on Wednesday, Jan. 4, cheered Californians’ continued
conservation while urging them to stay stingy with water after
residential savings slipped below 19 percent in November.
The first manual survey this year of California’s snowpack
revealed Tuesday that it holds about half as much water as
normal, casting a shadow on the state that’s hoping to dodge a
sixth straight year of drought, officials said.
Around the start of each year, California water officials make
a big show out of measuring the Sierra Nevada snowpack for
reporters. Tuesday’s measurement before a throng of cameras was
fairly bleak: Water content in the snowpack stood at just 53
percent of average, about a third as much water as the same
time last year at that site.
Surveyors will plunge poles into the Sierra Nevada snowpack
near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, taking the season’s first
measurement by hand of the snow’s water content as California
flirts with a sixth year of drought.
The federal government will be pouring nearly a quarter-billion
dollars into several dozen projects aimed at tackling the
effects of drought in the West and restoring watersheds that
provide drinking water to communities around the nation.
[Arizona] Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke
is meeting with other Colorado River system users in Las Vegas
at the annual Colorado River Water User Association Conference
running through Dec. 16. … On Dec. 15, Secretary of the
Interior Sally Jewell will unveil the program for management of
the Colorado River between Lakes Powell and Mead.
When California water officials assess the drought, the first
place they look is the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. Rain
and snowmelt from the area feed into a complex system of
rivers, canals and reservoirs that send water across the state.
California is working to put into place a framework that will
help the state deal with its current water shortage, as well as
future droughts that are likely to be more severe with a
changing climate. “Making Water Conservation a Way of Life,” a
draft report released last week, is the collective effort of
five state agencies to fulfill Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive
Order B-37-16, signed in May 2016.
The water policy measure overwhelmingly passed by the
House of Representatives on Thursday to build long-term water
infrastructure across the Golden State is headed for a showdown
with outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer, who plans to mount a
filibuster in the Senate on Friday as one of her final acts in
Despite a wet start to the fall in Northern California, nearly
two-thirds of the state remains wracked by extreme drought. In
the future, climate change is likely to make dry periods more
frequent, more intense and longer.
Urban Californians used about 1.8 percent more water in October
compared with a year earlier, state officials said Tuesday. It
marked the fourth straight month in which conservation has
slipped following the state’s decision to relax drought
Now, if past weather patterns are fulfilled this year, experts
say, Northern California’s winter — and long-term relief from
years of drought — could be just around the corner for the
state’s most important watershed.
California’s water regulators will start using aerial images to
measure the green grass and irrigated landscapes of hundreds of
communities across the state as part of a new long-term
strategy to boost conservation.
California officials crafting a new conservation plan for the
state’s dry future drew criticism from environmentalists on
Thursday for failing to require more cutbacks of farmers, who
use 80 percent of the water consumed by people.
In a series of proposals released Wednesday, state officials
said they might require urban water districts seeking to avoid
state conservation mandates to prove they have a five-year
water supply on hand.
In a case that could have statewide ramifications, a group
of multimillionaire Hillsborough residents, including an early
funder of Microsoft, has sued the town claiming that its
drought rules and penalties intended to keep people from
over-watering big lawns are illegal.
In a preliminary outlook, the state Department of Water
Resources said it can count on allocating as little as 20
percent of requested water supplies to start, hinting drought
fears are far from over in California.
California’s Department of Water Resources has made its initial
projection of how much water public agencies can count on
receiving from the canals and pipelines of the State Water
Project next year: 20 percent of their full allotments.
More than 102 million dead trees now litter California’s
drought-flayed forests, according to the latest aerial survey,
a finding likely to fuel a heated public-lands debate during
the incoming Trump administration.
President-elect Donald Trump might have trouble living up to
one of his more sweeping campaign promises in California. On
the stump in Fresno last May, he made headlines for declaring,
“There is no drought” here.
Wastewater recycling is being hailed in many communities as the
answer to ongoing drought problems. By cleaning sewage effluent
to extract pure water, it’s possible to create a sustainable
water supply that is cheaper than seawater desalination or
buying a new water supply. But there’s a little-recognized
downside to water recycling: It may damage wildlife habitats
already imperiled by water scarcity.
The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken
forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what
officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that
heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.
… Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for
much of the destruction.
Lake Cachuma, a giant reservoir built to hold Santa Barbara
County’s drinking water, has all but vanished in California’s
historic drought. It reached an all-time low this summer —
7 percent capacity, which left a thick beige watermark
that circles the hills framing the lake like an enormous
How low can the Colorado go? When will we get back to “normal”
winters? Can we blame it all on climate change? To address
some of these questions, the Colorado River Research Group
recently released a concise four-page paper explaining how
climate change is affecting the river.
If there is a positive outcome of five years of drought in
California, it’s the lessons learned about how to manage water
during a shortage in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. On the
up-side, farmers got creative to cut back their water
diversions by 32 percent through a volunteer program. On the
learning-curve side, complex water rights confound who gets
water during shortage.
California water agencies that spent more than $350 million in
the last two years of drought to pay property owners to rip out
water-slurping lawns are now trying to answer whether the
nation’s biggest lawn removal experiment was all worth the
The San Juan Water District’s especially steep backslide stood
out as part of a statewide trend: With mandatory state
restrictions lifted, the overwhelming majority of local
suppliers saved less this summer, according to a Times analysis
of state water data.
As the state enters its sixth year of drought, Northern
California is seeing some significant relief thanks to a series
of powerful storms, while Southern California remains mired in
record dry conditions.
It might have been sprinkling outside the Stockton Memorial
Civic Auditorium on Tuesday, but inside the building some of
the state’s brightest water experts were taking stock of
California’s enduring drought. As we enter into what could be a
sixth year of shortage, here are six lessons gleaned from
Tuesday’s forum sponsored by the nonprofit Water Education
As the rainy season begins in California, so too does the
potential for dangerous flash flooding. … California
agencies are using a new computer monitoring tool to understand
ground conditions in real-time, including areas burned by
Back-to-back bouts of rain that began Monday will make for an
unusually wet week leading up to Halloween, said forecasters
who are beginning to grow concerned about potential flooding
this winter in fire-scorched areas.
As the days darken, all eyes are on the Sierra Nevada, then the
sky, with a glance back at the mountains, to the Internet for
forecast information, over to the thermometer — all in a
fidgety search for a sign, any sign, that this winter will be
For those with a financial stake in water, drought can mean
boom or bust, depending on the investment. And even without a
specific market to trade water, there are numerous ways to
invest in it – from buying land with water rights to stocks in
water-dependent companies to municipal bonds. Take Michael
Burry, for instance, the hedge fund manager featured in the
book and movie “The Big Short” who outsmarted the subprime
housing market crash.
By any measure, California is confronting a complicated new
chapter as it enters the sixth year of a drought that has
forced it to balance huge demand for a sparse resource — water
— from farmers, residents, municipalities and developers.
Forecasts are already showing a possibility of La Niña in our
future, with the Climate Prediction Center for the National
Weather Service rating our chances at about 70 percent.
… La Niña was originally not in the cards as recently as
early September, according to NOAA.
In a move that could have ramifications across the arid West, a
government watchdog agency accused federal water regulators of
wasting taxpayer funds when they gave Klamath Basin farmers
more than $32 million to stop growing crops and to pump
groundwater instead of drawing from lakes and rivers.
California’s drought has brought about a strange partnership
that includes corporations like Coca-Cola and environmental
groups like the Nature Conservancy. They’re partnering on
projects aimed at helping increase water supply in
California has been trying to fill its reservoirs for 5 years,
and it will get a little help from a storm expected to hit
later this week. Right now, Lake Shasta is only at 60% capacity
and Lake Oroville is at 44%, with other reservoirs across the
state even lower.
Climate change from human activity nearly doubled the area that
burned in forest fires in the American West over the past 30
years, a major new scientific study has found, and larger, more
intense fires are all but guaranteed in the years ahead.
Four years into the drought, bark beetles did what was expected
of them in the conifer woods of Tuolumne County. They bored
into the trunks of moisture-stressed pines, cutting off the
trees’ nutrient flow.
Wildfires in California and across the West have become twice
as destructive over the past three decades due to climate
change, taking a toll that will only continue to escalate,
according to research published Monday.
Californians continued to backslide on water conservation
during the hottest summer on record, worrying regulators and
frustrating environmentalists critical of a new policy enacted
this spring that allows most urban water districts to avoid
mandatory cuts in water use.
Californians’ water conservation slipped for the third
consecutive month in August, prompting new alarm from
regulators about whether relaxed water
restrictions may be causing residents to revert to
old habits as the state enters its sixth year of
Already dealing with parched conditions, the U.S. Southwest
faces the threat of megadroughts this century as temperatures
rise, says a new study that found the risk is reduced if
heat-trapping gases are curbed.