Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought: To dam or not to dam, a dry spring, Old West water policy and more

Shasta Lake is the largest reservoir in California.
Shasta Lake is the largest reservoir in California. Craig Miller/KQED

State and federal lawmakers tussle over weather to create more open-air reservoirs to combat future droughts.

  • The California legislature is sorting through seven different proposals for a multi-billion dollar water bond on the November ballot. It's not clear what will emerge, but it's unlikely to ease the current drought. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • While state lawmakers consider a variety of options, Congress seems to favor building new dams, setting up what former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a "holy war." (ABC News)
  • Meanwhile, NOAA predicts a bone-dry spring. John Metcalfe writes any rain we might get would be like "sprinkling water on a heated cast-iron skillet." (Atlantic Cities)
  • Bettina Boxall surveys 130 years of water policy in California and spotlights water districts that have senior water rights. They'll likely get most of their water allocations regardless of the drought. She writes:

The list of the water-rich includes the Glenn-Colusa, Oakdale, South San Joaquin and Turlock districts. The average amount of Sacramento River water that Glenn-Colusa growers annually pump, for example, is enough to supply Los Angeles and San Francisco for a year. (LA Times)

  • Finally, 2013 was deemed the sixth-warmest year on record, and the U.N. weather agency says human-induced climate change played a role in extreme storms and droughts. (AP)
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