Southern California environment news and trends

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.


California Drought News: Little bits of rain that we can steal

Chinook Salmon (juvenile) Photo Credit: Roger Tabor (USFWS)

USFWS - Pacific Region/flickr Creative Commons

Juvenile Chinook salmon in the lower section of Gatton Creek, close to its mouth on Lake Quinault.

Will Californians head out to see Aronofsky's "Noah" just to remember rainier times?

  • Rain and snow are supposedly coming today. It'll be much less than last time. Southern California will see light rain if any. (San Jose Mercury News / AP)
  • Turns out water is pretty easy to steal. A new law is designed to help stop that. This article also contains a good explanation of how water rights work.
Having a water right means you don’t have to buy water from somebody else. Instead, the water is free and you control access. Junior water rights usually include a nominal annual fee paid to the state, but otherwise the same easy access applies. This differs from homeowners or water contractors who pay a monthly fee that varies according to how much water they consume – and who, if they don’t pay, see their water cut off. (Sacramento Bee)