Southern California environment news and trends

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)


Want to paddle the LA River this summer? Tell the Army Corps by April 25

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Opening LA river access widely to the public has been the work of nonprofits and government agencies for years. In 2011, activists were first permitted to lead pilot trips down the river, here shown around the Sepulveda Basin seciton.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The city of LA has long backed efforts to open the Los Angeles River to the public. In a pilot trip in 2011, city officials told kayakers about the history of the river, its value to flood control, and its pollution.

The Army Corps of Engineers has unveiled new details about a summer recreational zone proposed for the Los Angeles River at the Sepulveda Basin. The plan’s a potential expansion for public access.

From sunrise to sunset, between Memorial Day and mid-September, the Army Corps wants to offer guided and unguided access for non-motorized boats in the area of the Sepulveda Basin. You could put in a kayak at Balboa Boulevard bridge, and hop out downriver at another bridge at Burbank Boulevard.

At first, the Corps would issue licenses to nonprofit organizations for the duration of the season, with separate short-term or one-time licenses available to individuals or social groups who want to take their own boats out. If the program continues, the government would find a nonprofit vendor for paddling trips, and may allow commercial vendors after the 2014 season, according to the public notice


California Drought News: Clinton comes to town, but drought moves around

Stuart Rankin/via Flickr

Mono Lake, from the sky.

Friday's drought news reminds us that we're all in this together.

  • Mayor Garcetti and former President Clinton talked one of my favorite subjects yesterday: infrastructure. The Clinton Climate Initiative came to town, and LA's mayor said his city needs to be more resilient: “We’ve had two earthquakes in the last month.” That surely applies to climate and drought related issues too. (LA Daily News, KPCC)
  • California's water problems aren't limited to drought, anyway. What we use every year is really close to the amount we can actually renew as a resource. So there's not a lot of room at the margins, says the World Resources Institute: (Next City)
According to WRI’s research, 66 percent of the state’s irrigated agriculture is facing “extremely high levels of baseline water stress,” meaning that 80 percent of the available water supply is already being tapped by users — including farms, homes, businesses, and energy producers. With usage like that, there’s no margin for dry spells.


Broken water rate plan causes loss of revenues for Glendale

Glendale City Hall

Flickr/ T.Hoffarth

Glendale's city council has decided to pay a new consultant to try to fix ongoing problems with its water rate structure.

The city of Glendale will have to spend even more money than expected to fix recently-discovered problems in the way its public utility calculates water rates.

The last time Glendale updated its water rates, 2 years ago, the overall goal was to increase revenue and reward conservation. But in December, Glendale city officials discovered that the water rate structure, prepared by a Temecula-based consulting firm, was broken.

Related content: Does my community have water restrictions?

The utility overcharged some commercial customers and undercharged residential water users. The revenue that Glendale expected new rates to bring in simply wasn’t there. By some estimates, Glendale lost as much as $8 million, even though the city used more water.

Glendale's city council decided to pay a new consultant to fix the problems. Now that firm has discovered more miscalculations. This week, the city council admitted it would have to scrap the original rate structure and start over.  That means paying the new consultants even more.