environment

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The latest survey of California's endangered Delta Smelt has turned up just one fish. While the population has been in decline for years, UC Davis biologist Peter Moyle says the drought has stressed the species to the brink of extinction. 

Moyle: "I've been tracking these fish for years including in my own surveys, and we've been seeing this long term decline, but still I was quite startled."

He blames a number of factors for the almost complete collapse, but says the drought is a big factor.

Slow Progress In Congressional Water Talks

Apr 16, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to California drought relief legislation, it’s been a dry year so far on Capitol Hill. As Kitty Felde reports from Washington, Central Valley politicians and farm interests have been in Congress this week to remind lawmakers about the dire situation back home.

Drought relief legislation this year has gotten off to a slow start on Capitol Hill - unlike last year, when bills were floated in both the House and the Senate.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva, who spent the week meeting with members of Congress, says things are moving…underground. 

You may have heard by now that it takes one gallon of water to produce just one almond. And those are considered fighting words in drought-stricken California, which produces 80 percent of the world's supply of the tasty and nutritious nut.

So when almond grower Daniel Bays hears that, he just shakes his head.

Tensions Appear Amidst Dwindling Water Supply

Apr 9, 2015
Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown says it’s time for California to pull together to get through the drought. It’s a message aimed at people with competing water needs. And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, that’s created some tension.

There are more than 400 local water agencies In California. There are also agriculture, business and environmental interests. And as the drought continues they are all competing for a dwindling resource.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council has rejected a proposal to move forward with an effort to preserve area farmland from development.

The council voted down the proposed grant application today to start a farmland preservation program, which is key part of the city’s newly adopted general plan.

The program would require developers to offset the loss of farmland from urbanization by agreeing to preserve farmland elsewhere.

Council member Lee Brand says he wants more public input before committing to such a program.

Almond Rush Raises Tough Questions During Dry Times

Apr 7, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Conveyer belts carry millions of kernels through sorting machines in a giant processing plant in the western San Joaquin Valley near Newman, California.      

Jim Jasper: “So the almonds go in there.”

Jim Jasper is the president of Stewart and Jasper Orchards.

Jim Jasper: “We can speed this up… we can slow it down…”

Last year the facility hulled and shelled more than 40 million pounds of almonds -- most of which were headed overseas.

Brown Issues Mandatory Water Conservation Order For California

Apr 1, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

For the first time in the state's history, a governor of California is imposing mandatory water restrictions.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday that mandates a 25 percent cut in urban, potable water use in cities and towns from now through next February.

He announced the action near Lake Tahoe, after watching the state Department of Water Resources conduct a survey that showed the Sierra snowpack at a record-low five percent of normal for April 1st.

www.nps.gov

Thousands of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep once called the Sierra Nevada home.  Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on the latest efforts in restoring the species to their natural habitat.

It’s a good day for Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, which was thought to be extinct 100 years ago in Yosemite National Park. Two herds were relocated to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks this week from other parts of the Sierra.

Dana Dierkes is the spokesperson for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Brown Signs Drought Legislation, Calls For Conservation

Mar 27, 2015

Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills that he and California lawmakers say will help the state endure its fourth year of drought.

The billion-dollar aid package moved through the Legislature within a week of its announcement by the governor and leading lawmakers from both parties.

But Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler says there isn’t much in this legislation that will tangibly help Californians survive another dry year.

Poll: Californians Say Their Neighbors Need To Do More In Drought

Mar 26, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A new poll shows deep concern among Californians over the state’s drought and future water supply. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey shows two-thirds of adults believe the water supply in their region is a big problem. The same percentage also say people where they live aren’t doing enough to respond to the drought. And Californians are just as likely to name the drought as the state’s most urgent issue as they are to cite the economy.

New State Office Could Help Poor Valley Communities Get Clean Drinking Water

Mar 25, 2015
Valley Public Radio

The emergency drought relief bill that California lawmakers will begin voting on Wednesday would create a new state office. That might sound fairly mundane. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, supporters say it could help disadvantaged communities.

Clean water advocates will tell you that it can sometimes take decades for small or poor communities to get clean drinking water. Laurel Firestone is with the Community Water Center.

More Money For Drought Aid, But No Mandatory Conservation

Mar 20, 2015
Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders aren’t calling for any mandatory water conservation in this fourth year of drought. Instead, they’re offering emergency drought aid for a second straight year. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the state has yet to spend nearly half of last year’s emergency drought money.

The governor did not announce any new water conservation rules. But he hinted that day might come soon if the rain does not.

San Joaquin River Restoration Program

A new study says the drought in California has forced an increased use of natural gas to produce electricity, as dwindling river flows have reduced hydropower generation. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Pacific Institute says less hydroelectricity means more expensive electricity.

Peter Gleick: "We get a lot of electricity normally from hydropower, which is relatively inexpensive and relatively clean. And during a drought we don't have the water and we don't get the power."

Endangered Delta Smelt May Be Extinct

Mar 16, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A small endangered fish that plays a pivotal role in California’s water wars may well be on its way out. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, populations of the Delta smelt have plummeted to their lowest levels ever.

Prepare for the extinction of the Delta smelt in the wild. That’s what UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council. He says the latest state trawl survey found very few fish in areas of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where smelt normally gather.

In Mariposa County, 3,200 People May Soon Run Out Of Water

Mar 13, 2015
Mike Jenson / Merced Irrigation District

A California community that sits between two large reservoirs is running out of water. About 3,200 people in the Sierra Nevada foothill enclave of Lake Don Pedro rely on water from nearby Lake McClure. But the lake level is dangerously low. That’s forcing the community to find another supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, so far it’s come up dry.

The Lake Don Pedro community is operating in emergency mode.  For the last several weeks, work crews have drilled well after well, hoping to find groundwater.

Despite Drought, Some Experts Say It's Too Soon For Drastic Measures

Mar 11, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

As the California drought wears on, it might seem like more creative solutions are in order. But as Capital Public Radio’s Katie Orr found out it might not yet be time for drastic measures. 

Here in California it can be frustrating to see the East Coast and Midwest buried in snow while the west remains bone dry. But the news can be hard to avoid. 

Snow piling up so high, cities are struggling to get rid of it, while the west remains stormless. Seems like a waste. Surly there’s a way some of that extra snow can be moved to where it’s needed.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Two senate committees water and the environment held a joint hearing Tuesday in Sacramento focusing on the potential contamination of federally protected aquifers by oil producers. 

The state's Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources had allowed production companies to inject oil field waste water into some aquifers that the EPA says could be used for drinking water. The revelation has resulted in the shutdown of 23 wells, slowing production in Kern County. 

Big Businesses Weighing In On California Drought

Mar 5, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

As the California drought stretches into its fourth year, the business community wants to have a say in how water is managed. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on a new collaboration announced today.

Companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills and KB Home say they want a greater voice in how the state manages water. The group says it will monitor implementation of the recently passed water bond and ground water legislation. It will also encourage conservation and recycling at the local level.

California Water Conservation Rate Drops As Does Water Content in Snow

Mar 3, 2015
John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s water supply continues to diminish. The water content in the Sierra snowpack is the worst it’s been this time of year since 1991. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, water conservation rates are equally dismal, dropping dramatically in January.

Valley Farmers Face Second Year With No Federal Water Allocation

Feb 27, 2015
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The US Bureau of Reclamation says most farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will face a second year with no water from the Central Valley Project.

Ron Milligan is Operations Manager for the CVP. He says low reservoir storage is only part of the reason for the “zero allocation”.

Milligan:  “We’ve accumulated probably less than average snow for the month of February so we anticipate unfortunately the March 1 snow surveys are going to be probably even less fruitful then they were in February.”

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