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

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.