Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Poll finds drought's a big deal, but not worth spending money on (huh?)

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Friday's news finds people to be mysterious and full of contradictions...but hopefully interested in one last drought news roundup before the weekend!

  • A new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll finds most people approve of most solutions to the drought — unless those solutions cost money. And only 16 percent of those surveyed find that the drought has affected them personally:
Despite widespread news coverage of the drought — one of the worst in recent decades — the state's major population centers have largely escaped severe mandatory rationing. Even agriculture, which as California's thirstiest sector is inevitably hit the hardest by drought, has partially compensated for reduced water delivery by pumping more groundwater. That has softened the drought's effect on many, apparently blunting the desire for drastic remedies and big spending on water projects.

Pollsters say the results spell trouble for a potential water bond this fall. The survey also doesn't bode well for climate science — revealing a sharp partisan divide about whether climate change has worsened the drought:

"I don't believe in climate change," said Republican Steve Bennett, 60, a contractor who lives in Martinez. "This is a semiarid state. I don't know when it's going to sink in — but we have real wet winters and then we have dry periods, and it's been that way forever." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Climate science buffs who've been following the news know that an El Niño might just come and save us this fall, right? Well, that climatic phenomenon is looking more likely, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But it's also far from clear that it will dump enough water on us to end the drought (SJ Mercury News/Paul Rogers). More thoughts on El Niño:
In California, there has been hope that a strong El Niño could be a drought buster. The phenomenon is known for bringing wetter winters to Texas and southern California. They are also good news for Florida and the Caribbean, damping down the hurricane season in the Atlantic. (The Guardian)
"We continue to be confident that an El Niño will develop," said Mike Halpert, acting director of the Climate Prediction Center. But he added, "Maybe it's not looking like the '97-'98 event that a few folks thought a few months ago." (SF Gate)
  • Overdrafting and continued pumping of groundwater from the Central Valley's aquifer is triggering unexpected earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, according to scientists, including Colin Amos of Western Washington University:
"As winter snows melt and rains fill the aquifer each year, the enormous weight of the water pushes the Earth's crust downward beneath both the valley and the mountains," he said. "Then as pumping drains the aquifer, particularly in dry years, the crust springs upward — mountains, valleys and all - and the rocks rebound like elastic." (SF Gate)
  • Speaking of pumping groundwater, state agencies are working toward a good plan for managing it, and some bills are moving through the legislature on the subject. (Capital Public Radio)
  • In the rolling hills of Tulare County, it's going to take around $1,200 an acre foot of water and a few water swaps to keep citrus trees alive — though in only about half the water they're traditionally accustomed to. As reported by Mark Grossi, the deal is considered clever, because it prevents the total loss of trees. (Fresno Bee)
  • The city of Sacramento is facing choices about how to maintain its city parks. Can't let the roses die in the rose garden at McKinley Park, right? Park goers say it's easiest to let the lawns go brown and die, because re-sodding is cheaper than replanting trees and roses. (Sacramento CBS 13)
  • Glendale held a meeting to talk about raising water rates, but residents used it as an opportunity to question whether permitted development in the city will strain water supplies too much. (Glendale News Press)
  • Hey, here's an idea: reservoirs in California are at least a third full of sediment, and that sediment takes up space we could be using for 1.7 million acre feet of water. Let's make some more room in reservoirs and behind dams before we make more? (California Magazine)

How has your community been affected by the drought? Share your story with a photo on Twitter or Instagram. Tag it #mydrought. For more details on our photo project, click here.

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