environment

Scientists Discover What Makes Lake Tahoe Blue

Jul 23, 2015
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency newsletter Tahoe In Depth

Scientists have long thought that the blueness of Lake Tahoe was due to the lake’s clarity. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a new study shows that algae plays an important role.

For the past three years, UC Davis researchers have been measuring the degree of blueness in Lake Tahoe using a NASA research buoy. They compared those results with the lake’s clarity and found something surprising. 

Schadlow: “Clarity and blueness are controlled by very different things.” 

Valley Citrus Growers Feeling More Pain As Drought Drags On

Jul 23, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Citrus growers in the Central Valley say fewer trees are producing fruit, so the price of citrus could increase at the grocery store.  But, farmers' costs have skyrocketed because of the drought.

Zack Stuller is a grower in Exeter. He says he hasn't received water from the Central Valley Water Project in two years.

He has spent $2,000 an acre foot for water from distant agencies and  $70,000 to dig a well for six-acres of lemons.

More Wildfires In California, But No 'Mega Fires' In 2015 So Far

Jul 22, 2015
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

There's been a significant increase in the number of wildfires this year in California. But, as Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento, the size of the fires has been relatively small.

Four years of drought and record warm temperatures have created dangerous wildfire conditions in California.

And, it's been a busy year for firefighters.

Berlant: "Already this year we've responded to well over 1200 more fires than we would in an average year for the same time period." 

Climate Scientist: Don't Count On El Nino To End California's Drought

Jul 22, 2015
DANIEL A. ANDERSON / UC Irvine

Federal climate scientists say it was a record warm June for California. Capital Public Radio's Ed Joyce reports the hot weather is forecast to continue into the fall.

In this fourth year of drought, NOAA says California had its warmest June in 121 years. The agency said last year was the warmest on record for the state. And this last winter, California had a record-low snowpack in the Sierra.

Famiglietti: "I think that this past winter is representative of what we will very likely be seeing more of in the future."

Office of Rep. David Valadao

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Western Water and American Food Security Act, which promises to bring more water to valley farmers. Written by Hanford Republican David Valadao, and co-sponsored by Fresno Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, the bill would change the way the government manages water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. It would also make major changes to the plan to restore the San Joaquin River. 

Scott Bauer / Bioscience

Marijuana is big business in California. By some estimates pot is actually the state's top cash crop. But with the boom in marijuana cultivation, there is also a significant environmental toll. Mountain tops are being leveled, and streams are being illegally diverted threatening species already stressed by the drought. With the possibility of marijuana legalization looming in 2016, the issue of how to clean up the environmental damage caused by pot production is a big concern. 

Regulators Propose Large Penalty For Illegal Water Diversion

Jul 21, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California water regulators are taking steps to stop illegal water diversions by irrigation districts with some of the oldest water rights. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the latest action proposes the largest penalty against a district since the drought began.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A bill that aims to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farms has passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The Western Water and American Food Security Act would change the way the government manages both water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. Supporters say it would allow more water to be captured from early season storms, while still protecting the environment.

Valley Republican David Valadao authored the bill. He says existing regulations not only hurt farmers, they also aren't helping fish.

Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

Jul 16, 2015

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

California Moves To Limit New Lawns

Jul 16, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

New California homes and businesses may have less grass in the future. The state Water Commission passed a model ordinance Wednesday restricting the amount of turf that can be used in new developments with at least 500 square feet of landscaping. Grass can only make up 25 percent of residential yards. It will essentially be prohibited at non-residential buildings.

There have been previous versions of the model ordinance. But Commissioner Paula Daniels says this version better reflects California’s needs in the drought.

Report Shows Potential Fracking Problems

Jul 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new report out  Thursday says regulations for the process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" need to be tightened to prevent environmental problems.  And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, new legislation could emerge to do just that.

The peer-reviewed study from the California Council on Science and Technology was required as part of fracking legislation the state passed in 2013. 

Water Regulators Look At Rate Increases To Maximize Conservation

Jul 8, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

Increasing the price of water encourages conservation. But As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, California water regulators are seeking the best way to do that without running into legal problems.

Californians Conserve 29 Percent More Water In May

Jul 1, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Californians stepped up their water conservation in May. The state is the midst of its worst drought in history. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The State Water Resources Control Board says Californians achieved their best conservation yet, cutting water use 29 percent in May compared to two years ago. 

The board says rain in parts of the state likely drove the May water savings. But the rain did nothing to ease drought conditions.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in 2014 and things have gotten worse.   

California Bill Would Allow Tax On Water Wasters In Drought

Jun 30, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A California Assembly committee will hear a bill Wednesday that would allow water districts to impose taxes on any business, industry or person who wastes water. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the measure would require voter approval.

Stormwater Capture: California's Untapped Water Supply

Jun 25, 2015
Curtis Jerome Haynes / Capital Public Radio

When it rains in California, millions of gallons of water runs down city streets, into storm drains and out to the Pacific Ocean. But with the state in its fourth year of drought, it can’t afford to waste it. Some cities are capturing that rain by soaking it up like a sponge. Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento on what may be California’s next big “untapped” water supply.

It’s a busy morning in a San Fernando Valley neighborhood. On Elmer Avenue people are hopping in their cars and garbage trucks are making their rounds. Look to the northeast, you can see mountains.

Federal Agency Provides $150 Million For Drought Projects In California

Jun 24, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A federal agency is providing $150 million to help California deal with the on-going drought.

Most of the money, from the U.S. Agriculture Department, will be used for U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service watershed restoration projects in the Sierra Nevada.

California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird says those projects will benefit the 25 million Californians that rely on Sierra supply for drinking water. And also the irrigation needs of agricultural users downstream in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.

John Chacon / CA Department of Water Resources

Even before California's drought, many small unincorporated valley communities have dealt with drinking water that's polluted with nitrate, arsenic and other contaminants. As water levels in many wells have dropped, the problem has only grown more severe. 

Now a new provision in the state budget could offer help to some of those communities, in some cases potentially forcing large water districts to consolidate with smaller ones. Advocates like Laurel Firestone of the Community Water Center in Visalia say this could help many communities in their quest for clean water. 

Regulations Would Allow Quick Removal of Drought-Killed Trees

Jun 23, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s drought has killed so many trees that the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection is adopting emergency regulations to remove them. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the board is concerned about the growing threat of wildfires.

Twelve and a half million trees are dead, most of them in southern California and the southern Sierra Nevada. That’s four times more than all of the tree die-off in 2014 and it doesn’t include many of the hardwood species that are also likely dying.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

New Growing Technique Could Save Drought Stricken Avocado Farmers

Jun 9, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Farmers are being widely criticized during the California drought because of agriculture's water use, but some farmers are cutting back by employing new techniques. Lesley McClurg visited an avocado grower who is using half as much water to yield twice as much fruit. 

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It wasn’t long ago that avocados were a luxury crop, but the fruit’s popularity has soared in recent years… demonstrated by the sandwich chain Subway.

For the last several years the featured sub has included avocados.

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