2014 drought

Winter Snow Survey Better Than Last Year But Not Good Enough

Dec 31, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California has had greater than normal precipitation this year, but not greater than normal snowfall. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the first winter snow survey shows the amount of water in the snow statewide is 50 percent of average.

One third of the state relies on water that comes from melting Sierra snowpack. Frank Gehrke with the Department of Water Resources says manual readings show water in the snow on Echo Summit is four inches, just 33 percent of average. He says it’s not enough to fill the state’s reservoirs.

2014 Was A Rough Year for California's Farmers and Ranchers

Dec 17, 2014
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California's farmers and ranchers have endured a challenging 2014. Capital Public Radio's Lesley McClurg reports on how they're weathering the drought.

Paula Getzelman says recent rain brings a deep sigh of relief. She and her husband run Tre Gatti Vineyards in Monterey County. 

Getzelman: "We were extremely nervous in 2014. The harvest was a real nail biter."

Production at Tre Gatti was down twenty percent. Getzelman says she feels luckier than some of her neighbors who were down thirty percent. 

California Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Drought

Dec 16, 2014
UC Irvine

California needs one and a half times the maximum volume of water in Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, to end its drought. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, NASA scientists released the finding today.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region

The recent storms that have hit northern and Central California have much brought needed rain and snow to the state. But they also created a new problem for the operators of the massive pumps in the Delta that supply users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California - too much water. 

Ara Azhderian is with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority in Los Banos. 

Azhderian: "With all that water comes a whole lot of mud and trash and debris as well, so a little too much of a good thing too fast."

Strong Storms May Not Improve California Water Supply Much

Dec 11, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Northern California storms are causing water levels to rise in the state’s reservoirs. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the rain won’t do a lot to improve the state’s water supply.

California now has above average rainfall at the eight monitoring stations in the Northern Sierra. But the storm is not going to come close to ending the state’s drought. The Department of Water Resources says California would need five to ten more storms this season. Doug Carlson with DWR says storms have also been too warm.

Study Says California Drought Caused By Natural Climate Patterns

Dec 9, 2014
CA Dept of Water Resources

A new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says natural occurring climate patterns –not climate change- are the primary drivers of California’s drought. 

The NOAA study says a high-pressure atmospheric ridge off the West Coast blocked important winter storms from California for three winters. Ocean surface temperature patterns made the ridge much more likely. The decreased precipitation is almost the opposite of what climate change models project.

Californians Conserved Less Water In October

Dec 3, 2014
Valley Public Radio

For the second straight month, California’s water conservation rate has declined. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the State Water Resources Control Board says the reason behind the drop isn’t clear.

You could call it “conservation fatigue.” But the reason behind California’s diminishing conservation rate is more complicated than that. The statewide rate dropped from 10.3 percent in September to six-point-seven percent in October. Eric Oppenheimer with the State Water Resources Control Board says one reason for the difference may be the season change.

Water Levels In California's Reservoirs Continue To Drop

Nov 12, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The water in some of California’s major reservoirs is nearing historic lows. The Department of Water Resources says statewide, all reservoirs are currently holding about 57 percent of their historic norms.

But levels are dropping significantly in some of the major reservoirs. Maury Roos, is the Chief Hydrologist with DWR. He says the Lake Oroville Reservoir is near the lowest level it’s ever been.

Ezra David Romero

This week on Valley Edition we are joined by Fresno State Geography Lecturer and Reedley College Professor Sean Boyd for a conversation about the rain the region received last week and what Valley residents should expect weather-wise in the months to come.

California's severe drought is putting stress on everyone these days: the residents whose wells are running dry; the farmers forced to experiment with growing their produce with much less water; and of course, the thirsty fruits and vegetables themselves.

The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm.

The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.

California Tomato Growers Expect Record Year Despite Drought

Oct 21, 2014
California Tomato Growers Association

The drought has California farmers leaving thousands of acres fallow this year. But growers still chose to plant processing tomatoes. And as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, they’re expected to have a record year.

About 95 percent of the nation’s processed tomatoes come from California. Last year, about 12 million tons were produced. Some farmers this year were skeptical they could grow the 14 million tons contracted for by the state’s processors.

But Mike Montna with the California Tomato Growers Association says they hit that mark.

NASA Spacecraft Will Help California Address Drought and Floods

Oct 20, 2014
NASA / JPL-Caltech

Scientists may soon have a more accurate way to predict the extent and severity of droughts, floods and even the amount of food California can produce. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a NASA spacecraft getting set to launch will measure soil moisture, one of the most important components of the earth’s water cycle.

California Drought To Persist, Even Worsen

Oct 16, 2014
National Weather Service - Hanford

Predictions suggest the California drought is likely to persist, and even worsen in some areas. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says complete drought recovery is "unlikely this winter' in California.

Kevin Werner is NOAA's Western Region Climate Director.

He says the 2012-to-2014 period is the driest on record in California.

And low reservoir storage reflects that.

Voters To Decide Fate of $7.5 Billion Water Bond

Oct 7, 2014
US Bureau of Reclamation

On November 4th, California voters will decide the fate of a $7.5 billion bond intended to improve the state’s water system. Proposition 1 is one of the most closely watched measures on the ballot. Proponents of the bond say it would provide safe and reliable water, opponents say it wrongly focuses on building more dams. And as Capital Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, the bond has divided some environmental groups.


A new set of satellite images released by NASA shows the dramatic loss of water storage in the Central Valley due to California's long term drought. According to research by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Team, the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins together lost 12 million acre feet a year between 2011 and 2014, largely due to agricultural groundwater pumping.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This story is part of a Valley Public Radio original series on how the health of rivers impact the health of communities produced as a project for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Brown Orders More Action On Drought

Sep 19, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California's ongoing drought is prompting Governor Jerry Brown to take new executive action.

Friday, Brown ordered that money be made available to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households without running water.

He also extended the prohibition on price-gouging during emergencies to apply to the drought.

Finally, Brown is requiring state agencies to identify acute water shortages and work with counties and local agencies to address them.

Brown Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation

Sep 16, 2014
Office of Governor Jerry Brown

It’s going to become more difficult to drill a well in California. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on a package of groundwater legislation signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

The regulations will require local agencies to create and implement groundwater management plans within five years and meet groundwater sustainability levels within 20 years. Brown says the laws, combined with the Legislature's bi-partisan approval of a water bond slated for the November ballot, represent a giant step forward toward securing the state’s water supply.

California Department of Water Resources

California Governor Jerry Brown made history Tuesday morning when he signed into law three bills that for the first time will regulate groundwater in the state. California had been the only state in the nation that did not regulate groundwater at the state level.

While many environmental groups praised the move, a number of valley agriculture interests opposed the new regulations. This week on Valley Edition, we talked to Joel Nelson of the Exeter-based group California Citrus Mutual about his concerns about the new laws.