Environment

News about energy and the environment

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.

Flickr user https://www.flickr.com/photos/djwaldow/4868263565/ / Creative Commons

A proposed new ballot measure in California would tax bottled water sales. If backers gather enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, voters would be asked to place a tax of 5 cents per ounce on bottled water sold in the state. The measure would also require bottled water to contain a label identifying the product as “not drought friendly.”

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.

Local food enthusiasts have been trying to make the case that buying food from farmers nearby supports local economies, boosts food security and is better for the environment.

But so far, "local" food still makes up a pretty small fraction of what Americans eat. And given that most agriculture in the U.S. is geared toward producing food crops — from corn to soybeans to almonds — for the global market, it doesn't seem likely that will change.

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

A provision in the newest California budget could give the state the power to force mergers between small water providers and larger companies. A number of small central valley water utilities are facing dried up wells and dirty water due to the drought.

Many of the smallest water providers in the valley have just one well and lack the resources or customer base to continue to provide clean water.

Laurel Firestone with the Community Water Center says merging with bigger companies gives those communities a larger more durable water supply, especially during the drought.

Update: Friday June 19, 6:00 PM
The Corrine Fire has now grown to 1,000 acres is just 5 percent contained. Three outbuildings have been destroyed. Evacuations are in order for residents south of Corrin Road to Kerckoff Lake, and an advisory evacuation for residents of the community of Cascadel. Road 222 from Road 200 to Kerckhoff.

----

U.S. Forest Service

A wildfire known as ‘The Sky Fire’ burning outside Oakhurst in Madera County has grown to over 500 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service says as of Friday morning that the fire is only 15% contained and likely to grow. Early projections indicate that the fire could grow to as much 600 to 1000 thousand acres.

 The most recent information on the fire is available here.

The brush fire began Thursday after a vehicle caught fire on Sky Ranch Road north of Oakhurst.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For years, the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust has worked to preserve the river bottom from development between Friant Dam and Highway 99. While the parkway, and its partner agency, the San Joaquin River Conservancy have amassed thousands of acres of land along the river, much of that land isn't regularly open to the public. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

With summer right around the corner and triple digit temperatures here to stay the American Red Cross of Central California is gearing up for a hot forest fire season. The organization is a first responder for small scale problems like power outages and large scale disasters like floods, fires and tornadoes. But as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the agency’s aid for the first time is extending beyond disaster centers and into the arena of drought relief for people with dry wells.

Drought Threatens California's Oaks, Giant Sequoias

Jun 11, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The drought in California has killed millions of trees in the Southern Sierra Nevada. But the problem is more widespread. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some ecologists say the state could lose some of its iconic trees.

A US Forest Service aerial survey in April found 20 percent of the trees in a 4.1  million acre area in the Southern Sierra were dead. Jeff Moore conducts those surveys.

When television chef Nathan Lyon read about California's worsening drought earlier this year, he started thinking about the amount of water it takes to grow the food in recipes he creates.

That's when he and his girlfriend and culinary manager, Sarah Forman, decided to develop what they call "drought-friendly recipes."

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.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In the Sierra Nevada, above Fresno, North Fork Mono Indians are working to thin the forest. The group's goal is twofold. Save water and prevent large-scale forest fires. North Fork Mono Indians have been using this approach for centuries, but now California's severe drought means these ancient techniques are being looked at as a possible long-term solution. From Valley Public Radio, Ezra David Romero reports.

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.

Pages