drought

Study: Water Windfall Beneath California's Central Valley

4 hours ago
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study finds California’s Central Valley has three times more water beneath it than previously estimated. As Capital Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, researchers say that doesn’t mean accessing the groundwater will be cheap or easy.

Researchers at Stanford University found what they call a “water windfall” deep beneath the Central Valley. Stanford Earth Science Professor Rob Jackson is the report’s co-author.

Ezra Romero/KVPR

Residents in a valley community with one of the highest concentrations of dry wells will soon be getting some relief.  For years, residents in East Porterville have watched their wells dry up in the drought forcing them to rely on water delivery and tanks.

Now, the state of California is offering to pay to hook up the tiny unincorporated community to the much larger city of Porterville.

Eric Lamoureux with the Office of Emergency Services says the state will make an initial $10 million dollar investment to begin hooking up the roughly 1,800 homes in East Porterville.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Shipping containers have been used for everything from community gardens to pools and even homes. In rural Madera County one farmer is using these containers to help him save water on his sheep farm. He says a shipping container could actually be a solution to drought.

At Golden Valley Farm, about 10 miles northwest of Madera, Mario Daccarett’s employees are milking 500 sheep in rounds of 12. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Farmers in the western part of the San Joaquin valley will receive 5% of their water allocation from the Central Valley Project. That's the word from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

If it’s an April fool’s joke, farmers, water managers and Fresno County leaders aren’t laughing.

After two years of zero percent allocation, the Bureau announced that this year, despite El Nino conditions, many growers on the valley’s west side, will only get five percent of their promised water.

Farmer Sal Parra says the announcement is a gut punch.

US Bureau of Reclamation

Just two years ago California voters approved a water bond that set aside billions to pay for new water storage. Now a new group backed by many of the valley’s most influential farmers says that’s not enough to build new dams and expand existing ones.

State Water Project Estimates Most Deliveries Since Drought's Start

Mar 17, 2016
CA Dept Water Resources

Cities and farmers who rely on the State Water Project will receive the most water they’ve received since 2012. The California Department of Water Resources announced today that it plans to meet 45 percent of requests for deliveries.

It’s a major increase from December, when the state planned to fulfill only 10 percent of requests. Paul Wenger with the California Farm Bureau says it is welcome news. But he and other farmers are hoping the federal Central Valley Project will be able to meet requests.

Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Divert High Speed Rail and Water Bond Money

Mar 16, 2016
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A proposed California ballot initiative would reallocate more than $10 billion from the High Speed Rail project and the 2014 water bond to instead fund water storage projects. As Capital Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, the measure would do much more than that.

Opponents of the proposed initiative would seem to be strange bedfellows, some Republican lawmakers who have long fought for water storage projects, environmentalists, and some farmers. Jay Ziegler with the Nature Conservancy says the measure is an attempt to misguide voters.

Delta Smelt Populations Plummet

Mar 8, 2016
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

This is the worst year in history for populations of the tiny threatened fish that’s often on the frontline in California’s water wars. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has found a mere handful of Delta smelt in its January and February trawls.

The department caught seven fish in January and six in February. UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle says catches have historically been in the hundreds.

Nader Assemi

Right now, Central California’s rolling mountain foothills are painted in brilliant orange flowers. After years of drought, California poppies are back with a vengeance.

Standing on the side of highway 168, Sandy Kowallis uses a knife to spread sky blue oil paint on a fresh canvas to capture the beauty of two poppy covered hillsides.

“And that should make it even more interesting. Because if you put a complement next to each other, like orange and blue, each will intensify the other,” Kowallis said.

California’s prolonged drought has visible consequences such as depleted reservoirs and mandatory water conservation rules. But one of the more expensive effects could be buried deep in your electric bill.

The Pacific Institute updated its study on the hidden costs of drought and estimated that Californians have paid an additional $2-billion dollars in electrical bills over the last four years.

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