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drought

Central Sierra Historical Society

In recent years, the forests of the Central Sierra have changed dramatically. Drought, bark beetles and climate change have helped to kill millions of trees across the region, and years of fire suppression have also contributed to an unhealthy ecosystem in many areas. Now the Central Sierra Historical Society Museum at Shaver Lake has launched a new website and museum dedicated to the changing forest. We talked with retired forester John R.

Westlands Water District website

It wasn’t a "Miracle March" but last month's spring storms helped turn around what might have been a devastating year for California’s water supplies into one that is merely depressing. But was it too late for many valley farmers? We spoke with Johnny Amaral, deputy general manager for external affairs for Westlands Water District on Valley Edition. He joined us to talk about how this year is shaping up for valley growers, and also about some other issues in the news.

Florence Low / Department of Water Resources

The process of bringing running water to over 700 homes in East Porterville is now complete. The State Department of Water Resources made the announcement today, bringing an end to a saga that gained national attention during California’s most recent drought. Hundreds of homes in the unincorporated area east of the City of Porterville had their private wells go dry during the drought.  Many residents were forced to turn to bottled water, or water delivered to their homes by trucks.

By some measures, Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in California. His empire of almonds, pomegranates, pistachios and citrus covers over 120,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Known today as The Wonderful Company, Resnick and his wife Lynda have grown their multi-billion dollar fortune on products like POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Wonderful Halos mandarin oranges. And despite California’s drought, in recent years they’ve kept growing, thanks to shrewd management of their most precious resource - water.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The 2016-2017 water year was one of the wettest on record in California. While all that water in the system was enough to officially end the state’s drought, its impact on endangered species is another story, especially when it comes to the Delta smelt. A survey conducted in October 2017 by state and federal agencies found only 2 of the fish, the lowest number on record.

National Weather Service

The recent rains mark the first big storm to hit Central California this rainy season. But are they enough to hold off the dreaded "d-word" of drought? We ask Fresno-based meteorologist Sean Boyd about the short and long-term outlook, and about the recent two week stretch that left valley residents breathing some of the worst air in twenty years. 

A new study published this month suggests that parts of the world recovering from droughts are taking longer and longer to bounce back.

"Time between drought events will likely become shorter than the time needed for land ecosystems to recover from them," says co-author Christopher Schwalm of Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts in a press release.

Ezra Romero/KVPR

Earlier this month Governor Jerry Brown declared the California drought over in all but Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Tuolumne counties.  Now the state says it won’t fund drought assistance programs past June. Tulare County is still seeing drought impacts and to continue drought assistance there it'll take about $4 million annually. More than $19 million has been spent on drought assistance in Tulare County alone.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new map released by NASA earlier this year shows that large portions of California are sinking. The worst of it is in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the main reasons is the over pumping of groundwater, especially in the last five years of drought.

All that sinking and all the snow melting in the Sierra has Central Valley water managers like Dustin Fuller worried.

National Geographic

The new documentary "Water & Power: A California Heist" takes a look at past and current water wars in California. It's told through the eyes of Valley voices like journalist Mark Arax and Bakersfield Californian Columnist Lois Henry. 

"This is a very serious issue," says the films director Marina Zenovich. "We show people in the film with wells going dry. One of our characters says watch out. You could be next."

PPIC

Despite a rain and snowfall year that is among the wettest in memory, Central California's water supply and quality problems are not going away anytime soon. A new report from the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California looks at those issues and offers a variety of management solutions.

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition Reporter Jeffrey Hess reports on the debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act and how it has affected the region. We also hear about an alarming health trend happening across the state. FM89's Ezra David Romero explores the idea around whether the drought is over. Later we hear from FM89's Kerry Klein about a new wave of consumer fraud in the region and what's being done about it. Ending the program Jeffrey Hess visits with Bitwise CEO Jake Soberal about how the group plans to expand in Downtown Fresno. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California’s received record levels of snow and rain so far this year. And in Northern California there are signs that the drought may be coming to an end. There are full reservoirs, record snow levels and flooding. But as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports even though there are these indicators, places in the Central Valley remain in extreme drought.

All this talk of the drought nearing an end has me wondering whether this is just wishful thinking. UC Davis Water Expert Jay Lund says that depends on where you live.

Google Maps

The tiny community of Monson in Tulare County received some good news this week. The State Water Resources Control board awarded $1.2 million to help solve the area’s long term water problems. The area's dealt with high levels of nitrates for decades and the drought dried up lots of wells that people depend on for drinking water.

Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley represents the area. He says funding due to the drought is answering the communities longtime water problems.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A report released this week argues the consequences of the drought have been more pronounced in some communities than others.

The analysis from the Pacific Institute and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water says water shortages, hikes in water rates and fishery declines have been concentrated in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Additionally, Laura Feinstein with the Pacific Institute says those effects extend beyond the central valley, even to typically wet areas on the North Coast and Central Coast.

Governor Brown’s latest budget proposal has some new language related to clean drinking water.

 

The proposal acknowledges that many of California’s disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain safe drinking water systems, but it stops short of any additional funding to fix the problem.

Jonathan Nelson with the advocacy group Community Water Center says this acknowledgement may seem modest now, but it could lead to bigger things.

Friant Water Authority

While a major “atmospheric river” storm system is expected to pummel Central California with historic amounts of rain and snow this weekend, there’s one place you won’t find floodwater: the Friant Kern Canal.

The Friant Water Authority says the 152 mile canal, that carries water from Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River near Fresno all the way to Kern County has been shut down since late last year for maintenance and construction. 

This weekend’s storm could be good news for valley farmers, who hope they’ll be able to store some of the anticipated runoff.

Ara Azhderian is the water policy administrator for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which represents 29 water contractors that use the San Luis Reservoir. He says the outlook for 2017 is already good.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Plans for a new dam on the San Joaquin River above Millerton Lake are on a collision course with a new proposal from the Bureau of Land Management to designate a portion of the area as a “Wild and Scenic River.” Conservationists say it would save some rare land values while improving public access, but supporters of the dam say the designation would essentially kill the project. What does the incoming Trump administration mean for the reservoir? FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

 

As California's drought continues to drag on, what's the weather outlook for 2017? Meteorologist Sean Boyd, who is a lecturer in Fresno State's Department of Geography and City & Regional Planning joins us today on Valley Edition to talk about La Nina, rain, snow and more. 

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