Environment

News about energy and the environment

NASA/Friant Water Authority

A new way to measure the snowpack from the sky is getting some positive results. FM89's Ezra David Romero reports officials hope new technology can reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

 

At the start of the year NASA crews began flying over the San Joaquin River watershed to measure the snowpack using laser pulses. This creates a way more accurate estimate of how much snow is the mountains than traditional snow surveying does.

 

National Geographic

The new documentary "Water & Power: A California Heist" takes a look at past and current water wars in California. It's told through the eyes of Valley voices like journalist Mark Arax and Bakersfield Californian Columnist Lois Henry. 

"This is a very serious issue," says the films director Marina Zenovich. "We show people in the film with wells going dry. One of our characters says watch out. You could be next."

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

All of the recent rain and snow in California is good news for farms and cities. The runoff flowing from the Sierra Nevada is so strong this year that’s it's moving huge boulders and tons of earth down rivers. That means gold is on the move as well and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that has gold prospectors on alert.

 

Larry Riggs and his friends are hunting on a piece of private property near Oakhurst. There are no guns or fishing poles present. Just shovels, plastic bowls and buckets.

They’re panning for gold.

PPIC

Despite a rain and snowfall year that is among the wettest in memory, Central California's water supply and quality problems are not going away anytime soon. A new report from the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California looks at those issues and offers a variety of management solutions.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

After five years of drought there’s so much snow in the Sierra Nevada that state water officials are preparing for a massive runoff year. But the traditional way of calculating the snowpack has a huge margin of error and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports a new way to measure it could greatly decrease that inconsistency.  

Every winter and spring a network of snow surveyors manually tally how much snow is in the Sierra Nevada. They do this by measuring snow depth in the same spots every year.

Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

A new study about how wildfires are started in the US found that people are responsible for more fires than lightning. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

 

Of the 1.5 million fires the study looked at from 1992 to 2012 84% were started by people. University of Massachusetts at Amherst researcher Bethany Bradley says that’s helped tripled the length of fire season in the US, and grow the affected area by seven times. She says fires caused by lightning usually happen in the late summer.

 

Westlands Water District website

The federal Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday how much water water districts across California should expect to receive this year. Eastside growers in the Friant Division within Fresno County should receive a 100 percent allocation. Ryan Jacobsen is the CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is so big this year that water managers are worried that one warm storm or a couple warm days could inundate reservoirs in the region. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from Friant Dam.

 

Ezra David Romero

There are over 1,400 dams and water diversion structures throughout California. Most of the time, we don’t pay much attention to them – they do their job and fade into the background. But months of massive storms after years of drought have suddenly brought the state of our dams and reservoirs to the top of the public agenda.

California fire officials are already preparing for a hot fire season despite the ample rain and snow the regions received. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

 

Jeremiah Wittwer with Fresno County Cal Fire says there’s a lot of extra grass and brush growing in the region because of the rain. He says come summer when the vegetation dries out there’ll be a major fire hazard.

 

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Today, we’re taking advantage of the season and venturing out into the snow. We’ve gotten a lot of it this winter, so it’s the perfect opportunity for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Or at least snowball fights.

A native New Englander, Kerry loves the winter—as long as she’s bundled up and warm. Ezra: not so much. But as far as winter activities go, snowshoeing is his jam. And who doesn’t love seeing their breath in the air and hearing ice crunching under their feet?

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California’s received record levels of snow and rain so far this year. And in Northern California there are signs that the drought may be coming to an end. There are full reservoirs, record snow levels and flooding. But as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports even though there are these indicators, places in the Central Valley remain in extreme drought.

All this talk of the drought nearing an end has me wondering whether this is just wishful thinking. UC Davis Water Expert Jay Lund says that depends on where you live.

Google Maps

The tiny community of Monson in Tulare County received some good news this week. The State Water Resources Control board awarded $1.2 million to help solve the area’s long term water problems. The area's dealt with high levels of nitrates for decades and the drought dried up lots of wells that people depend on for drinking water.

Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley represents the area. He says funding due to the drought is answering the communities longtime water problems.

Ezra David Romero

In this episode, we’re venturing to a different kind of destination.

It’s not exactly outdoors…but there’s no heating or air conditioning. 

It’s musty, damp and that’s what some people love about it. Often the only light source is the light you bring.

We’re going underground. In this episode we’re exploring the world of spelunking. But people who do this don’t actually call it that. They refer to the activity as caving.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The valley’s fruit and nut trees need cold temperatures in the winter in order to go to sleep and wake up healthy in the spring. New research suggests that in as little as 30 years, it may be too warm in the valley to grow these trees due to climate change. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that the agriculture industry is taking the issue very seriously.

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