Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Janet Napolitano and other things that fly

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas watches snow geese take flight over his rice fields in California's Central Valley.

Lauren Sommer/KQED

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas watches snow geese take flight over his rice fields in California's Central Valley.

Thanks to @zandubinscott, we have a new word for drought to try out: sereation.

Use it in a sentence you demand? But of course! I need a vacation from this sereation of unknown duration, lest I lose motivation for my vocation.

Keep the suggestions coming. In the meantime, ACADEMIA:

  • New UC president Janet Napolitano (who's apparently known for some other position she's had in the past) took an aerial tour of areas hit hard by the sereation. This is ahead of a sustainability plan due out this spring that will involve all 10 campuses:
It was Napolitano's first visit to the 330-acre center -- one of nine UC agriculture research hubs that dot California -- where she took a tour of the canola, walnut and blueberry crops planted there. Her visit comes as California faces a third year of drought and one of the driest years on record. Napolitano said the UC system will do its part to help farmers find relief. For example, she said, UC Merced could soon play a more prominent role in agricultural research. (Fresno Bee)


California Drought News: Drilling for wells is red-hot, and there's more green for purple pipe

melfoody/via Flickr

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir serves the San Francisco Public Utility Commission water and power.

The Central Valley sends ravens with news (on this day after Game of Thrones), but it's news that sure sounds like strategies and tactics southern California has heard before.

  • One of our local water agencies invented the color for "purple pipe," so recycled water has a toehold in this region, but with around $1 billion in taxpayer money available now, the whole state's getting excited about it, writes Hudson Sangree. (Sac Bee)
  • Drilling business is booming with demand for wells. Rigs can't get a rest, according to the AP:
The figures prove it. In Fresno County, which leads the nation in agricultural production, officials issued 256 permits to dig new wells in the first three months of 2014, more than twice the number compared to the same time last year. That includes all types of water wells used for agriculture and homes. In Tulare County, the number of permits issued to dig farm wells alone has tripled to 245. In Kern County, farmers took out 63 new well permits in the first quarter of the year, more than quadrupling last year's number. (Associated Press)


California Drought News: Fracking (wells), flying (birds), and pricing (water)

Jan Arendtsz

Red-tailed hawk near Los Banos, CA. Pilots near the Lemoore Naval Air Station say they're seeing more hawks and predator birds banging into their planes as dry weather moves their prey closer to base.

Friday's news reminds us that there are winners and losers in the drought.

  • Fractivists are "starting to reap serendipitous marketing ammunition" from the combo threat of drought and earthquakes, writes Al Jazeera.
“They’re skilled at marketing, skilled at hyperbole,” said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association in Sacramento, a group that represents 550 companies and individuals in the oil industry. “We use less than a total 300 acre-feet of water a year for fracking. That’s equal to what all golf courses in California use in half a day.” (Al Jazeera America)
  • But drought and birds don't mix around a military base. Valley Public Radio's Ezra David Romero reports that pilots around Lemoore Naval Air Station see more "bird strikes" because fallow land attracts prey for birds to eat. According to Commander Joe Guerrein: (Here & Now):


California Drought News: Lobbying for water, wishing for wine

Annual lobbying by Westlands Water District 1998-2013

The chart shows the annual lobbying expenditures by Westlands Water District from 1998-2013. LInk:

Chronicling the dastardly exploits of the fiendish parchnemesis, it's California Drought News!

In today's episode: politics, fish and fruit.


  • Our own Kitty Felde helped investigate lobbying efforts from our (and the country's) largest agricultural water district. How much did they spend, even as most other lobbying decreased? Spoiler alert: a lot. And it may be working for them.
The bill also extends for 40 years all existing federal water service contracts – including the one for Westlands. Lawrence says that takes away any flexibility to make water decisions for a generation. He notes that once you've delivered a "signed, sealed contract, let alone been directed to do it by the Congress," you've taken away any chance at reviewing how future water should be allocated. (SCPR)


State, federal officials' drought plan already stirring up trouble for competing water interests

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Chinook salmon on the Tuolumne River in the Central Valley. State officials say they're living in adverse conditions - but they are hopeful there's enough cold water in which the salmon can spawn,

California and federal officials Wednesday released a roadmap for managing the state's scarce water in a way that they say balances the needs of people and wildlife.
All the agencies with some authority over California's water supply got together to make a "Drought Operations Plan." The document lays out roughly how water will be divided over the next 7 months or so - particularly in areas where there are competing interests.

The state's plans for what little water has made its way into the State Water Project do not include any water contractors getting those supplies. That includes the Metropolitan Water District, the wholesaler that sells water to more than to dozen local Southern California water suppliers.
Officials said negotiating a document among several agencies that share jurisdiction over water policy is no mean feat. And as with any negotiation, not everyone is happy about the results.