Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Wildfire, groundwater, and the return of the Chipotle burrito

avocado guacamole mexican food chipotle

Photo by timlewisnm via Flickr Creative Commons

You know what's not getting any cheaper? Meat, cheese or avocados. Check your receipt at Chipotle, people.

Friday's news really doesn't understand how the city of Portland can just flush 38 million gallons of water. That's a lot of water to let go down the drain, especially with fire season around the corner.

  • A potentially devastating wildfire season is, "deepening and locking into place across much of the far West, Southwest and Southern Plains," writes Andrew Freeman. (Mashable)
  • Cal Fire has hired nearly 100 seasonal firefighters for the north and middle part of the state. (Think Progress)

I haven't been reading enough personal profiles of water use around the state. I liked this one:

  • In Hanford, one organic farmer already saves water and is looking to save more. By using wood chip mulch, she says she's using a third less water. She's still worried about sustainability, groundwater, and the money earmarked for high-speed rail. (Hanford Sentinel)


California Drought News: Whitewater rafting, Lady Gaga and one enormous flush


World Resources Institute

Thursday's sereation roundup reassures thrill seekers and tattles on some water wasters.

  • The World Resources Institute has compiled a map of water-stressed regions. They made it by comparing dry areas with their typical water usage. Any guesses where LA ranks along the scale? (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Things may be dry in the state, but it won't stop the whitewater rafting season this year. Paul McHugh has a guide to the state's likely better spots.
"People in the media were really yammering about California's drought in February, but our conditions have improved a lot since then," says Arnie Chandola, owner of American Whitewater Expeditions. "It's pretty healthy on the South Fork now. We've been guaranteed raft-able flows there Saturday to Monday until the end of May, and then flows five days a week during the summer." (San Jose Mercury News)


Appeals panel halts long-term Delta water contracts in dispute over smelt, other fish

California Dept. of Water Resources

The Delta smelt is around 2 inches long.

A federal appeals court has put on hold more than 40 long-term contracts to send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms and small water agencies.

Environmentalists welcomed the decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, though it doesn't change anything in this drought year. The ruling stems from a dispute involving the delta smelt, a fish the length of your finger.

About six years ago, federal biologists concluded that taking water away from the Delta for irrigation would jeopardize that fish and others. Environmental groups sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, arguing that finding should have been a factor in how the agency determined the amount of water it sends to farms and water districts. 

Eleven 9th Circuit judges--liberal, moderate, and conservative--signed the decision. They ruled federal water managers should have consulted biologists about the health of the smelt - and they noted that the Bureau of Reclamation could have curbed how much water the long-term contract holders got, or modified the contracts to protect the smelt, after the biological opinion was rendered.


California Drought News: Water opinions split; DiFi takes heat; that lime's gonna cost you

produce fruits vegetables shopping market

Courtesy of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

A new report quantifies the hit shoppers are likely to take because of the drought.

Today's installment of "Drought News" drills into what Golden Staters are thinking about the dry spell and the impact it might have on their wallets.

  • A Field Poll finds Californians in agreement on the severity of the drought, but not on its cause. A majority favors relaxing environmental restrictions to divert more water to human uses but think farmers can do more to conserve.

There was also broad agreement that agricultural users could drain less water. A clear majority of the state, 54 percent to 30 percent, said farms could conserve water “without creating real hardships” by switching to crops that require less water or using water more efficiently. (Sacramento Bee)

  • California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is taking heat from environmentalists on her bill moving through the U.S. Senate that they say scraps habitat protections in favor of farmers. (SFGate)
  • While it's still not clear how much water Central Valley farmers will get from state and federal water systems this summer, a new report has put a price tag on the higher food costs the drought is likely to trigger. A taste of the findings: lime prices are likely to double. (NBC)
  • A new NASA-funded study links California's drought — and the East's frigid winter — to climate change. It also find this year's weather patterns typically proceed the onset of El Niño conditions. (Think Progress)


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)