Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Condolences, Congressional warnings, and conservation reminders

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76592 full

Monday's news sends condolences to California Chrome for the Triple Crown, reminders to the Bay Area to save water, and warnings to Congress about its legislation. (Dear Chrome: Your owner is not your fault. We know you tried.)

  • The LA Times editorial board opines on the Congressional efforts to pass drought legislation. The board concludes that reconciling a House Republican sponsored bill that aims to undermine the Endangered Species Act with a Senate bill sponsored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein is a bad idea for California. It also makes arguments against the kind of bills it seems federal lawmakers like to work on during a drought time anyway. Dear Congress: 
Any progress California hopes to make in attaining sustainable solutions to its long-term water crisis requires a great deal of trust on the part of all factions that science and expertise, and not politics, will govern day-to-day decisions about how much water is needed to protect a salmon run, for example, and how much can be diverted to farms. Changing rules that by all appearances are working sends a signal that Congress rather than water experts may at any moment take charge of the state's competing water needs. (LA Times)
  • According to records pulled by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area residents "are conserving in only modest amounts, if at all.":
Long showers continue to be the norm, cars still get hosed down, and sprinklers still soak green lawns despite pleas by local water officials to cut back. In San Jose, water use in the first quarter of the year was actually up over the same period in 2013 — though officials there say conservation efforts are just kicking in. (SF Gate)

Dear Bay Area: 

​"We need them to do a little more."

  • The outdoors writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Tom Stienstra, reports on two treks he's made in the last couple of weeks into the high country of the Sierra Nevadas, where he noticed drought effects:
One sight that alarmed me last week was at a remote natural spring I've returned to many times, where the water is cold and sweet and pumps like a perpetual fountain. From the drought and low snowpack last winter, it was already a trickle. I haven't seen it go dry, but this could be the year. (SF Gate)
  • Sid Garcia reports that Catalina Island homes and businesses will have to cut water consumption 25 percent starting in July. (ABC 7)

Much of today's roundup focuses on the central valley — but then, so do many of our water decisions statewide.

  • Most Asian vegetables, like long beans, Chinese eggplant, and fuzzy gourd (mo qua) are grown on small farms — the kind hit pretty hard by the drought. Many of the small Asian vegetable farms are run by Hmong and Mien families, who can't afford resilient water systems. (SF Gate)
  • Here's a great service provided by the Modesto Bee: they follow up on local water complaints sent in by their readers. In this entry, the Bee checks on a huge pipe that appears to be running water into a drain on Coffee Road, and finds that the water is tainted with heavy nitrates, making it not drinking-water-worthy. (Modesto Bee)
  • The State Water Resources Control Board may force curtailment (which means cutbacks) on users of river water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Already, northern San Joaquin valley farmers are skeptical of the rumblings of this plan:
"We don’t think the state’s authority extends to our pre-1914 water rights," said Steve Knell, Oakdale Irrigation District general manager. "We fully expect to take them on should they decide to go down that path." He’s not the only one. (Modesto Bee)
  • And finally, in a recent Showtime documentary ("Years of Living Dangerously"), New York Timesman Thomas Friedman interviewed President Obama about climate change. The President has no qualms about connecting climate and drought:
We’re obviously concerned about drought in California or hurricanes and floods along our coastlines and the possibility of more powerful storms or more severe droughts. All of those things are bread-and-butter issues that touch on American families. But when you start seeing how these shifts can displace people — entire countries can be finding themselves unable to feed themselves and the potential incidence of conflict that arises out of that — that gets your attention. There’s a reason why the quadrennial defense review — [which] the secretary of defense and the Joints Chiefs of Staff work on — identified climate change as one of our most significant national security problems. It’s not just the actual disasters that might arise, it is the accumulating stresses that are placed on a lot of different countries and the possibility of war, conflict, refugees, displacement that arise from a changing climate. (NYT)

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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