News about energy and the environment

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.


The Kern River isn’t especially deep or wide  to quote Merle Haggard – but it is one of the wildest rivers in the state. It’s also a mecca for whitewater enthusiasts in search of thrilling adventures down the canyon every spring and summer. 

But with California mired in a historic drought, and snowpack only around 10 percent of normal for this time of year average, this year may be different. Among those feeling the pain are the many companies that specialize in whitewater tours on the Kern River, both below and above Lake Isabella.

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

Earlier this month an op-ed ran in the LA Times with a headline suggesting that California will run out of water in a year.  Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports while the record setting drought is bad, we’re not there yet.

The California drought is serious.

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. 

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.

Efforts To Restore Spring-Run Salmon On San Joaquin River Move Ahead

Feb 18, 2015
State Department of Water Resources

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies will take a significant step today in restoring what was once the largest salmon run in California. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, thousands of hatchery-raised spring-run Chinook salmon will be released into the San Joaquin River.