Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Cheap greens, expensive beef and priceless lessons

Historic Drought Cripples Ranches And Farms In American West

John Moore/Getty Images

The California drought is causing the price of beef to rise.

There's a leak in my apartment ceiling. This is after one of the weakest rainy seasons in decades. Had we gotten our fair share of rain this year, I'm pretty sure I'd be swimming around in here.

Anyway, enough complaining (kind of), because it's time for DROUGHT NEWS:

  • Mother Jones looks into the question of why produce prices remain reasonable despite California's persisting drought. After all, we do grow half of the vegetables in the country. The answer (and potential problem) is groundwater.
There's a financial metaphor that works here. To live off surface water is to live off your paycheck. When you get a raise, you can spend more. But when your paycheck drops, you have to cut back, economize. To rely on groundwater, though, is to live off of savings. Every draft you take is one that you won't be able to replenish, at least not easily. (Mother Jones)

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California drought news: Third lowest snowpack, the economics of drought, and strawberries!

Sun Set In The Sierra Nevada Mountains

David McNew/Getty Images

Winter clouds swirl over the White Mountains Nov. 19, 2003 east of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains and Bishop, California. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is currently at a third of average.

  • Tuesday's snowpack measurement -- the most comprehensive of the year -- revealed this year is not the lowest on record,  but it's little comfort as drought persists. (San Jose Mercury News)

RELATED: California drought: Snowpack survey bad news for dependent farmers and cities

  • UCLA's Anderson Forecast weighed in on the economic impact of drought. It finds on the one hand, California industries and people are adaptable when it comes to drought. As AP's Robert Jablon writes...

"The fact is, aridity and recurrent drought, if expected or normal, are not a detriment to economic growth. Arid states in the U.S. over the past decade have not performed worse than their wetter brethren," said a section of the report by Anderson Senior Economist Jerry Nickelsburg. "Agriculture, industry, fisheries and households are not passive players in this game but react to drought-based incentives."

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California Drought News: Rain, lightning, snowpack measurement

dry drought land cracked plants plant sprout

Photo by IRRI Photos via Flickr Creative Commons

Despite some recent rain, California is still behind in average rainfall so far for the year.

Why's the ground all wet out here? Who's been wasting water? Oh right, rain...

Well, let's freak out about it:

  • Lightning strikes airplanes! While that does sound terrifying, it happens frequently. Planes are designed to withstand strikes. (AP via San Diego 6)
  • Why not just celebrate the news that WE GOT RAINED ON?! Storms caused some minor flooding in the Bay area but didn't stop a baseball game. More wet stuff to come tonight. Maybe this time we'll get more than .04 inches downtown. (San Jose Mercury News)

Ok, enough about the rain. Drought's still on.

  • Today is snowpack measurement day, and it's the big one of the season. National Geographic has a great explainer of the process, complete with cool pictures, because National Geographic.
Tuesday's public test takes place near Highway 50, near a log cabin belonging to the descendants of Joseph Phillips, who first settled the region in 1859. The area was a favorite route of early Gold Rush explorers seeking easier paths into California. (National Geographic)

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California Drought News: Going deep for groundwater, waiting for rain, measuring snow

Chris Austin

As much as 40% of California's water supply comes out of the ground in a given year, but the state has enacted no limits on groundwater pumping.

Monday's news reminds you that this is the 10-year anniversary of "A Cinderella Story," a prescient film set in a drought-stricken San Fernando Valley, in which brainy tomboy Hillary Duff tells the quarterback of the football team, "Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought. Useless, and depressing."

  • Speaking of rain, in Southern California, we're showing a 50% chance of rain on Wednesday this week, according to the Weather Channel. Northern California's chances are better, and are for a longer window of rain possibility. (SF Gate, The Weather Channel)

RELATED: LA Rain: System expected to bring twin storms beginning Monday night

The San Jose Mercury News went deep this weekend with stories about drought policies around groundwater in California. If it's not falling from the sky, or running down from melting snow, groundwater's probably what you're looking for. It's water stored in space between rocks and minerals, particularly in the Central Valley, that everybody wants to count on - but nobody wants to tally up.

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California Drought News: Australia-inspired solutions and the Friday shower tip

Brisbane Enters Stage 5 Water Restrictions

Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

When it comes to drought, Australia often does it bigger, better, or before California. A sign is displayed in a suburban garden to notify that recycled water is in use on April 10, 2007 in Brisbane, Australia.

Friday's drought news wants to model itself on Australia, but why stop at water? Let's envy their coffee, rugby skill and mystery writers, too (but not their bush fires).

  • L.A.-based historian, writer and landscape architect Wade Graham weighs in on drought with an op-ed. He dismisses California's famous "co-equal goals" for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as unrealistic, and says a way out of the water crisis for California is to steal the idea of a water market from Australia, where the first step was for everyone to agree to manage water "in the national interest." Graham writes:
Beginning with Australia's largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin, planners and scientists now look first to how much water is needed to sustain stream ecosystems, and cap diversions to maintain them. Water quality, salinity and the connections between surface and ground water are all taken into account. Next, water is set aside for the essential needs of human communities for drinking, household use, sanitation and firefighting. (Wade Graham/LA Times)

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