Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Chinatown's 40th anniversary is the Golden State's hottest year on record

They love the Jack Nicholson film Chinatown in Owens Valley.

Friday's news isn't going to sugarcoat it: we've got good news for people who like bad news.

  • "Exceptional" drought conditions are spreading in California — up to a third of the state from a quarter of it a week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. (LA Times)
  • And California is enduring its hottest year on record, contributing to the state's worst level of drought in the past 40 years. (USA Today)
  • Yeah, words sort of stop working to describe it: check out these satellite images of California drying out. (Discover Magazine)

Summer starts tomorrow. June is when drought news stops being about the hope of rainfall, and becomes about the fear of wildfire.

  • The director of CalFire has suspended open burns on 31 million acres of state land. That means residential burn permits, forest management, hazard abatement, and other industrial-type permitted burning. (Lake County News)
  • And it's the 40th anniversary of "Chinatown!" An op-ed written by Gary Polakovic argues that our view of water in the west is fantasy — and gives you a great reason to remember these opening lines:


California Drought News: The Red Badge of Extinction

dryku Lewis MacAdams


Our first celebrity dryku was written by an actual poet! Lewis MacAdams also happens to be the president and founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River.

Don't forget to submit your drykus to our Twitter account @kpccdryku.


  • At the federal level, today, we'll get the details of a $34.2 billion energy and water bill proposed in the Senate. Michael Doyle writes about the Senate and House bills and the secrecy that's surrounded them. (Sacramento Bee)
  • At the state level, Bloomberg explains that the water bond to be included in November's ballot still hasn't been decided, and Democrats are running out of time (kind of) to substitute in their own. Some are calling for the governor to throw in his hat. (Bloomberg)

Scrolling Intermission:

  • Take a look at this giant picture of the State Capitol's lawn. It's totally brown, because they're cutting back on water use. (Getty Images)


California Drought News: Fireworks, fog and forsaken campgrounds

L.A. County Fair

L.A. County Fair fireworks from the 1930s.

Today's dryku:
Illegal fireworks
Holy grail for teenage boys
Mordred to dry brush

Keep sending in those drykus to @kpccdryku. In the meantime, Tuesday's drought news is all about ruining your holiday plans:

  • Memorial County Park in Loma Mar is closed to camping. Low creek levels mean not enough water to support overnighters, and so all 154 tent sites have been closed. June camping's done. It's likely the rest of the summer will be the same way.
The 499-acre park, nestled in the redwoods along Pescadero Creek, will remain open for daytime visits. However, restrooms with plumbing have been closed, and portable toilets with washing stations have been brought in. (SF Gate Blog)

Ooh! Aah! AAUUGHH!!!

  • July 4th is coming up fast. That means days off, barbecues and valuing freedom. Just kidding — it's about the fireworks. CBS Sacramento answers why fireworks sales won't be banned this year, considering the drought's made the state into a tinderbox. The answer is that they don't want to penalize responsible vendors when it's illegal fireworks that are the danger. (CBS Sacramento)


California Drought News: Hope is not a plan, except in the World Cup — the truth about El Niño



The U.S. Men's National Team takes on Ghana today. It's okay to hope for a win in the World Cup, but two U.C. Davis researchers say it's not a good idea to bank on hope that an El Niño gets California out of drought.

Monday's news finds it sort of ironic that we're talking drought here while torrential rain threatens the United States-Ghana World Cup match. Starts at 3 p.m. Pacific, y'all. Cheer for the USMNT while the hope is still alive in the Group of Death. On to the roundup.

  • Will California's drought continue into 2015? UC Davis' Jay Lund and Jeffrey Mount crunch 106 years of state designations to find it doesn't look good:
In all, there’s a 71 percent chance that next year will be Below Normal or drier and only a 29 percent chance of experiencing an Above Normal or Wet year. (California WaterBlog)

The message: it might rain this winter, it might not, but to borrow some words from Top Gun, California's ego may be writing checks its body can't cash. We're still drawing down groundwater faster than we should, argue the authors. Hope is not a plan.


California Drought News: Big questions about drought, short-term memory about weather

slworking2/Flickr Creative Commons

This homeowner ripped out lawn to replace it with rocks. At least half of residential water use still goes toward landscaping in California, even during a drought.

Friday's news is asking questions and hoping for solutions.

  • Can California conserve its way through drought? National Geographic notices that nobody's conserving enough, and takes in the Natural Resources Defense Council's report this week, which concludes that the state "could save up to 14 million acre-feet of water with a concerted effort to reuse water, capture lost stormwater, and ramp up water-saving practices in urban and agricultural settings."
If cities boosted their efficiency and reuse of water, they could readily save 5.2 to 7.1 million acre-feet of water per year, the report says, or more than enough water to supply all of urban southern California. Earlier this year the state allocated nearly $700 million toward those kinds of investments, and some projects are already under way around the state. "Cash for grass" programs, in which residents are paid to replace their lawns with water-free plantings, have been particularly popular, says Poole. On June 3, the State Water Resources Control Board issued revised rules that make it easier to use recycled water for landscaping. (National Geographic)