California

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

A provision in the newest California budget could give the state the power to force mergers between small water providers and larger companies. A number of small central valley water utilities are facing dried up wells and dirty water due to the drought.

Many of the smallest water providers in the valley have just one well and lack the resources or customer base to continue to provide clean water.

Laurel Firestone with the Community Water Center says merging with bigger companies gives those communities a larger more durable water supply, especially during the drought.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

With summer right around the corner and triple digit temperatures here to stay the American Red Cross of Central California is gearing up for a hot forest fire season. The organization is a first responder for small scale problems like power outages and large scale disasters like floods, fires and tornadoes. But as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the agency’s aid for the first time is extending beyond disaster centers and into the arena of drought relief for people with dry wells.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain has hit all of California hard, but perhaps no place more than in Tulare County home to 60 percent of the residential wells that have gone dry in the entire state. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the county is creating a model for drought relief that the rest of the state can follow.

Denise England’s colleagues have a nickname for her.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Every summer and fall, PRIMA brand peaches and grapes from Fresno-based Gerawan Farming can be found in supermarkets across the country. But the workers who pick that fruit are currently at the center of one of California’s biggest labor conflicts. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports that the stakes for both the company and the United Farm Workers are high.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

On this week's program Reporter Ezra David Romero visits the Central Valley community of Fairmead where dozens of private wells have gone dry.

Also on Valley Edition Reporter Jeffrey Hess looks at a program helping people find jobs along the future high speed rail corridor.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Reporters flocked to the Valley town of East Porterville last year where over 600 private wells went dry. This year many other towns are facing a similar plight, including the community of Fairmead. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero visits the community and finds an aging population with people whose basic needs are on the brink.

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California's drought and last week's mandatory water cutbacks announced by Governor Jerry Brown have ignited a national controversy over valley agriculture. Brown called for a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use by residents in cities, but his order left out agriculture. 

Governor Jerry Brown announced Wednesday the first mandatory water restrictions in the Golden State’s history. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on how farmers in the Central Valley are reacting to the plan.

With the lowest snow pack in history Governor Jerry Brown says the drought demands unprecedented action. He’s mandating new conservation methods including new agricultural water use reporting guidelines.

Cannon Michael farms 10,000 acres of tomatoes and corn in Central California. He says the impacts on agriculture from the edict are limited.

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California was once the number one cotton growing state in the nation, but the drought has changed that. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on why the total cotton acreage in the state has dropped.

California cotton farmers are in the process of planting over 170,000 acres of the crop.

That sounds like a lot, but according to Roger Isom the number of acres expected to be planted in the state this year have plummeted to the point of plantings not seen since around 1910.

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Valley grape growers and winemakers are responding to a new lawsuit that claims many lower priced California wines contain too much arsenic. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Popular California wines like the so-called “Two-Buck Chuck” sold at Trader Joes are the subject of the suit. It alleges commercial lab tests found arsenic levels exceeding the levels allowed in drinking water in over two dozen California wines. The plaintiffs claim the wines could pose a health risk.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California is now in the fourth year of its on-going drought, and this winter’s meager snowpack has water experts worried, thanks to remarkably warm temperatures. But scientists at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment say that in just a few decades, this severe condition could be the new norm, thanks to climate change.

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Last week, an ambitious planned development that seemingly died during the recession reemerged in rural Kings County.

The developers behind the proposed community of Quay Valley say this new city of 75,000 people would be located on a barren stretch of Interstate 5 south of Kettleman City.

While things like water, infrastructure and jobs all remain big questions, the developers have announced one other detail – a planned 5 mile test track for entrepreneur Elon Musk’s proposed Hyper Loop.

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California was once a national model for good governance. But after a decade of near constant budget battles and staggering deficits, in recent years the state has been more of a model of political dysfunction.

A new book by Fresno State political science professor Jeff Cummins examines California’s budget problems. It’s called “Boom and Bust: The Politics of the California Budget.”

CA Department of Motor Vehicles

Thousands of California immigrants are taking advantage of the state’s new driver license law. According to new numbers released today, 46,200 undocumented immigrants have applied for driver licenses during the first three days since the law took effect on Friday.

The Department of Motor Vehicles revealed the following statistics:

BCDOIC

Starting in 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles expects about 1.5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver license. For many, this will be their first time legally driving in the state.

Immigration advocates applaud this change but also say there's a big concern. Some are worried they will fail the behind the wheel test since it won't be offered in the native languages many immigrants speak.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we a take a look at why some dairies are leaving California for what they say are greener pastures in the Midwest. Also on the program you'll hear the story of a once homeless female veteran who now helps homeless veterans in Fresno.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

This is the second story in a two-part series reported in partnership with Harvest Public Media. The first story explores why a Merced family is on the move to South Dakota: California Dairies Look To Midwest’s Greener Pastures.

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Parts of Central California have been hit especially hard by the drought, and specifically the dropping water table beneath the ground. But as California farms and cities lean more and more on their aquifers, many are concerned that more and more wells will go dry.

This is not a new story. Huge portions of the San Joaquin Valley have actually dropped due to massive pumping of water from the ground dating back to the 1920’s. The question is – when will the taps run dry.

Ezra David Romro / Valley Public Radio

Drought conditions in parts of Central California have become so harsh that it’s normal to turn on the tap have no coming out.  A few months ago we brought you the story of East Porterville where more than 600 homes are without water because their household wells have dried up. Now, some of the town’s residents will have access to something they haven’t had in months. 

The last time Gilberto Sandoval took a warm shower was over a month ago.

“I’ve  been without running water for the last three months,” Sandoval says. “ No water whatsoever.”

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

With the second open enrollment period of Covered California in full swing, state officials are boosting their efforts to reach out to Latinos. Yet, there are many people in the Central Valley who are living in the shadows when it comes to enrolling for health care.

Covered California officials say they're proud to have signed up 1.2 million people for health insurance during the first year. But Executive Director Peter Lee says there’s still some things they want to improve.

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