Southern California environment news and trends

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.


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)


California Drought News: How pot is making California sink (and other leaps in logic)

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

Marijuana plants for sale at Studio City's Perennial Holistic Wellness Center.

There's gold in them thar hills! And pot. And it all ties in together in a messy, dusty bow(l).

First, the good news:

  • OK, so it's not totally good news, but you have to look for the silver lining in every nonexistent cloud, right? In this case, the silver lining is that it appears most Californians are cutting back on water use. At least, that's what they say they're doing:
According to [a Public Policy Institute of California] poll, two of three adults consider water supply a big problem or somewhat of a problem. One in four wasn't worried. But just about everyone — 92 percent — said they are trying to conserve. (AP via Sacramento Bee)

The bad:

  • Less rain means more groundwater pumping. That also means that large portions of Central California are sinking, some by about a foot each year. (National Geographic)


California Drought News: Monoculture, moving water and trucking salmon

via OSU special collections/Flickr

Moving fish around by truck, either to help them spawn, or to stock rivers for regional anglers, isn't new or special to the drought in California. This image shows a U.S. Bureau of Fisheries truck driver, John Manning, emptying his truck load of salmon at the Plain dump in Oregon's Wenatchee River.

Wednesday's news has far to go...especially if you're a Chinook salmon. More on that in a bit.

  • Is California's drought ready for a "Silicon Valley" moment?" Nicollette Hahn Niman leverages the state's water supply to reactivate agriculture's monoculture vs. permaculture dispute. She writes that this drought is "a long-awaited chance to assess root causes of our dwindling water supply and consider some radically new ideas for the future of food production." She continues:
We need to farm as nature does – with diverse crops, and plants and animals together – rather than the so-called “monocultural” school of farming that grows huge fields of annual crops. Natural ecosystems are complex, and dominated by perennials, a dense mat of fibrous roots that exists in the soil year-round, tightly holding soil and water. (The Guardian)


Exide Technologies FAQ: Everything you need to know about recycling lead batteries in LA


Mae Ryan/KPCC

Exide Technologies in Vernon.

What do battery recyclers like Exide Technologies in Vernon do?

Old lead-acid batteries, like those you see under the hood of your car, are gathered up and shipped to secondary recycling facilities. (Motorcycle batteries and other commercial batteries go to Vernon too.) They’re disassembled or otherwise broken down; first, plastic casings and hardware are pulled off and separated. Then the lead is melted down in furnaces, to separate it  from the acid parts. The lead is smelted into ingots, lead-alloy bars, or blocks as large as a ton, and then re-used in batteries and other similar products.

How many battery recyclers are there in California?

Two. The only two battery recyclers in the U.S. west of the Rockies are Exide Technologies, in Vernon, and Quemetco, in the City of Industry.