environment

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.

Google Maps

California’s drought is about to hit Kern County in a big way. FM89’s Joe Moore reports on why officials are concerned Lake Ming could dry up next month.

Officials call the situation unprecedented. With the Kern River projected for its lowest level since records began in 1894, the City of Bakersfield has announced that it won’t get any new water from the river this year. The city is currently drawing down what little water it has stored in Lake Isabella, and that’s likely to be exhausted by mid-July.

Feds, California Agencies Sued Over Water Management Plan

Jun 4, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A federal lawsuit claims California and federal water managers are harming several fish species with water allocations.

A coalition of four groups, including Restore the Delta, filed the lawsuit in federal court.

The lawsuit claims two federal agencies and the California State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources violated federal and state water laws.

It alleges several fish species in the Delta and Chinook salmon runs on the Sacramento River are near extinction.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla is with Restore the Delta.

Rudy Mussi is not the California farmer you've been hearing about. He is not fallowing all his fields or ripping up his orchards due to a lack irrigation water.

For Mussi and most of his neighbors in the bucolic Sacramento Delta, the water is still flowing reliably from the pumps and into the canals lining the fields.

"If you had to pick a place where you would say, 'Okay, where should I stick my farm?' You'd come to the Delta," he says.

California's drought isn't just turning green lawns brown or #droughtshaming into a trending topic. It's taking a multi-billion dollar toll on the state's agricultural industry as well.

The University of California, Davis is out with a new report, and some of the numbers are steep. The study found that in 2015 alone, the drought will cost the state's farmers industry $2.7 billion and more than 18,000 jobs, with 564,000 acres fallowed.

LA Times

California's drought isn't just a water shortage. It's also an event that has highlighted the political, cultural and economic divides that make up the Golden State in the 21st century.

The one common thread? Everyone wants to find someone to blame. Urban residents in San Francisco blame "greedy" San Joaquin Valley farmers. San Joaquin Valley farmers blame Bay Area "extreme" environmentalists. And Southern California groups blame political gridlock in Sacramento on such key issues as building more water storage and "fixing" the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. 

California Water Regulators Agree To Cutback Program For Farmers

May 22, 2015
http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

California water regulators are praising some Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmers for coming up with a program to voluntarily cut water use.

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved a deal in which farmers with some of the oldest rights to divert water from rivers would reduce use by 25-percent or fallow 25-percent of their land. The board says those farmers who participate would no longer risk future water curtailments. Felicia Marcus is Chair of the water board.

Poll Shows Wide Support For Water Conservation

May 21, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new Field Poll shows almost two-thirds of Californians surveyed support Governor Jerry Brown's urban water reduction plan.  Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Field Poll says nearly 89-percent of people surveyed believe the current water shortage in California is serious, with 66-percent saying the drought is ‘extremely serious.’

But 44-percent of homeowners said it would be difficult for them to cut household water use.

About 70 percent said it would be a serious problem for them if their local water district raised household water bills by 15 or 25 percent.

Water Board Considers Voluntary Water Cut From Delta Area Farmers

May 21, 2015
California Department of Water Resources

Some farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta who hold the most senior water rights may agree to a 25-percent cut in their consumption. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the proposal comes as California water regulators consider mandatory curtailments.

Under the proposal, farmers who hold rights to divert water along a river or stream would either reduce irrigation use or leave fields fallow. In exchange, they want guarantees that regulators wouldn’t restrict remaining water. Jennifer Spaletta, an attorney for a group of farmers, says it’s a practical solution.

Drought May Mean The End For Some Native Fish

May 14, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The drought in California is taking a heavy toll on native fish. Some experts fear if the drought lasts much longer, it may be a death knell for some species. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the Delta smelt is likely headed toward extinction.

The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

Brown Defends Delta Tunnels Project, Agriculture Industry

May 7, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown says opponents of his Delta water tunnel proposal should just “shut up.” He spoke to the Association of California Water Agencies in Sacramento Wednesday.

One day after the State Water Resources Control Board set mandatory reduction requirements for every local water agency, Brown thanked the agencies for helping California through the drought.

And then, he turned to what many in the room believe is their future water source: two tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to move water south.

Brown Revises Bay Delta Water Plan, Faces Criticism

May 1, 2015

California Governor Jerry Brown has revised his plan to restore habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, much to the dismay of environmental groups. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the plan also includes design changes for the proposed twin tunnels that would carry water south.

Governor Brown sold his plan to build two tunnels in the Delta with the promise that habitat would be restored. The number most commonly mentioned was 100,000 acres. Brown says that was just an “idea” with no way to pay for it.  He now proposes 30,000 acres.

New Brown Drought Proposals: Larger Penalties, Faster Environmental Reviews

Apr 28, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can be fined right now is $500. Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise the maximum penalty to 20 times that amount. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on the governor’s latest drought response proposal.

Brown wants to raise the maximum fine to $10,000 per water violation. He also wants to give cities, counties and water agencies the authority to issue fines without going through the courts.

Not Ready To Give Up Your Lawn? Landscapers Offer Drought Tips

Apr 23, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

If you're watering your lawn at all, there's a good chance you're watering it too much. That's the take-away at a drought workshop near Sacramento for landscaping professionals. Lesley McClurg attended the class sponsored by the Department of Water Resources.

Tom Noonan is water management specialist. He says calibrating sprinklers can be a complicated science. 

But, the bottom line is...

Noonan: "Get rid of run-off and get rid of over spray." 

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