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.

Last-Minute Budget Legislation Irks Water Agencies

Jun 18, 2015
John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

Late-emerging legislation designed to deal with the drought could be part of the budget package California lawmakers will vote on Friday. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, water agencies say the state is overstepping its authority with some of the provisions in the proposal.

Part of the legislation would give state water regulators the ability to force local water agencies to consolidate. Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, says the intent is to help communities without access to safe drinking water.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

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.

New Growing Technique Could Save Drought Stricken Avocado Farmers

Jun 9, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Farmers are being widely criticized during the California drought because of agriculture's water use, but some farmers are cutting back by employing new techniques. Lesley McClurg visited an avocado grower who is using half as much water to yield twice as much fruit. 


It wasn’t long ago that avocados were a luxury crop, but the fruit’s popularity has soared in recent years… demonstrated by the sandwich chain Subway.

For the last several years the featured sub has included avocados.

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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.