Southern California environment news and trends

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.


California Drought News: Trouble for state rivers, the growing concern over groundwater and more

David Prasad/via Flickr

A view below Friant Dam from March 2013. Restoration of the San Joaquin River below the dam, begun under a legal settlement a few years ago, nevertheless remains controversial, especially in this dry year.

Another day, another series of drought effects hitting the environment and the people of California.

  • One victim of the ongoing drought appears to be Chinook salmon in the American River near Sacramento. Environmental and fishing groups say water flows from two federally operated dams are too warm and too slow to support the population. They've filed a complaint with the state. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Meanwhile, a national advocacy group has named the nearby San Joaquin River America's most endangered waterway. An ongoing restoration program has become caught in the debate over the best use for water in a drought. (Fresno Bee)
  • The future of groundwater supplies has become the topic du jour in the Central Valley, which relies heavily on them. A university in Turlock has invited the public to a meeting of water experts to spark  a discussion on the issue. (Modesto Bee)
  • Among the arguments for a proposal to ban fracking in California is it's not a good use of water during a drought. A bill to establish a moratorium has advanced in the state Senate. (Los Angeles Times)


Metropolitan hikes wholesale water rates over San Diego's objections

Seal of the Metropolitan Water District MWD La Verne (3178)

Photo by Don Barrett via Flickr Creative Commons

Metropolitan will raise wholesale rates for water it sells to local agencies by around 1.5% for the next two years.

The Metropolitan Water District, the region’s biggest water wholesaler, plans to boost what it charges local water suppliers in the next couple years.
Metropolitan's Board of Directors has approved a budget for the next two years, and part of the plan calls for about a 1.5 percent increase in the price of its water each year.

RELATED: Metropolitan Water District's little-known trips raise questions

The budget plans "help ensure that Metropolitan will be able to supply water to nearly 19 million Southern Californians even during severe droughts and reduces pressure on future rate increases by cutting the district’s overall costs,” says Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan's general manager.

Dozens of agencies across Southern California buy water from Metropolitan, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Homeowners won’t see immediate changes in water bills as a result of the rate hike; the process of raising rates on the retail level can take several months to a year if local agencies decide to pass along the cost.


California Drought News: Sled dogs, falcons and bats, oh my

Al Kamalizad

KPCC producer Mary Plummer tries out urban mushing. Here she is with siberian huskies Obi (left) and Leica (right).

I'm tired of writing the word "drought" all the time. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a good synonym for it, so I'm going to have to make one up. If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments. In the meantime, today's attempt: parchnemesis.

Tuesday's news roundup shows how the parchnemesis is hurting our animals. And cocktails.

But first...

  • Condominium and mobile home owners won't get fined by their homeowners associations for not maintaining their yards. No statistics on how many condos or mobile homes actually have yards, though. (L.A. Times)


  • Recent rains have made some rice farmers a little more hopeful about their crops. When I think of rice fields, I picture paddies submerged under water. Apparently in the Sacramento Valley, it's usually just mud.
Bright yellow flowers top the giant mustard weed straddling the edges of the creeks and drains that surround McClellan’s farm, and the ground is muddy enough to coat the shoes of those who walk through. 

On a normal year, though, the mud would be ankle-deep. (Sacramento Bee)


California Drought News: Farm supply, preparation among water users in SoCal, question of dams

David Prasad/via Flickr

A view below Friant Dam from March 2013. Restoration of the San Joaquin River below the dam, begun under a legal settlement a few years ago, nevertheless remains controversial, especially in this dry year.

Monday's news says: Make sure your pets have enough water. It's going to be a hot one. First, a story of seeking supply.

  • In California, oil fields produce water, too. Usually it's pumped back into the ground, but oil-produced water can be blended down to irrigation quality and used by desperate farmers in the Cawelo Water District, as KQED reports. (KQED)

Southern California, somewhat secure in its water this year, is focused on questions of demand.

  • Gregory J. Wilcox and Kevin Smith round up the state of preparation among water users in Southern California, and find a pretty sunny outlook, where water agencies have been storing water against dry times, Golden Road Brewing is reusing cleaning supplies and sweeping more than mopping, and even commercial real estate owners have been working on this, since at least one conference a couple of years ago. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)