Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Lots of views about how to save water, as there's little new direction to do it. Also fireworks!

Less water in Hoover Dam means less power coming from the Dam's generating units.
Dawn Danby/via Flickr

Monday's fat stack of news also includes some views about what to do about drought and Western water supplies.

The New York Times has published six answers to the questions "What are the best ways to share the water? And how can we ensure it lasts for the foreseeable future?" Pat Mulroy, former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, weighs in, as do several other think tankers:

[N]ew energy and fuel production options have become more water intensive. Unconventional oil and gas production methods such as hydraulic fracturing have significant implications for local and regional water quality and quantity. Bioenergy consumes water at various stages of production (including irrigation for crops) and also has impacts on water quality and quantity...We should be pursuing cleaner energy and streamlined approaches to conserving water in order to truly safeguard our water supply. (Newsha Ajami/Stanford University)


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California Drought News: Sex in shower conservation, and freedom in water markets...a summer of love?

This is a public service campaign suggesting you save water...and suggesting some other things too.

Friday's news is going to make you wait for it...when it comes to an explanation for the picture above.

The Wall Street Journal takes on pricing and other big-think policies that various authors claim are worsening the drought.

  • Those higher food prices Jed wrote about yesterday? Alyssia Finley, assistant editor of, says they're the fault of environmentalists, and higher food prices will be the way the rest of the country will pay for California's "green sanctimony." (WSJ)
  • Economist Edward Lazear argues that "government-dictated prices, coupled with restrictions on the transfer of water, have made a bad situation much worse." He takes aim at the state's limitations on water transfers (lifted, he doesn't note; but he argues that pricing distorts the need for transfers anyway). He argues that public agencies that protect environmental conditions with water should pay for the privilege:


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California toxic regulators sue FedEx over handling of hazardous shipments

The Department of Toxic Substances Control is claiming that FedEx Ground has mishandled hazardous materials in packages.
Thomas Hawk/via Flickr

State regulators have sued FedEx Ground, claiming the company mishandled hazardous chemicals at facilities throughout California during the last 5 years.  

An investigation into a fire four years ago in San Diego prompted a wider inquiry into how FedEx handles restricted chemicals in statewide shipping at all of its facilities.

Regulators claim FedEx didn’t handle thousands of damaged and hazardous packages properly. The state’s complaint claims FedEx would remove damaged packages from shipping and store them for lengthy periods of time in salvage drums, which were moved from hubs to terminals within the company’s network of facilities.  

These packages contained goods ranging from insecticides and acids to old batteries and other flammable and toxic materials – pretty small shipments, less than 65 pounds, but investigators say they’ve found problems with more than 20 tons of goods shipped over a 5-year period.


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California Drought News: Snake bites, fireworks and what to do about water jerks

Beatrice the Biologist / Scientific American

Today's dryku:
Food budgets are tight
Droughts do raise vegetables' price
But don't make snakes bite


  • The USDA released its monthly food price outlook. Looks like prices are going to be up at least 3.5%. Fresh fruit could go up by 6%. Bloomberg has a chart showing how produce is projected to hit its highest price in 18 years. (LA Times)


  • Southern California seems to be seeing a higher rate of rattlesnake bites this year. Despite the article's headline, experts in the story say it's not because of the drought. A shorter winter has brought snakes out of hibernation earlier, meaning a longer active season, meaning more need for anti-venin.
As of June 12, 128 people were admitted to a hospital for a snakebite and of those, 93 received doses of anti-venin, Heard said. In 2013, 269 Californians went to a hospital for a snakebite and of those, 166 received anti-venin, he said. Simply doubling the number of patients needing anti-venin treatment would equal 186, more than 2013. (Some patients get “dry bites” meaning no venom is injected and therefore do not need anti-venin, he said). (Contra Costa Times)


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California Drought News: Dust in the 'Salad Bowl,' the (property) price of water, SFers get a pat on the head, more

Dried and cracked earth is visible on an unplanted field at a farm on April 29, 2014 near Mendota, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Summer is upon us, and KPIX in San Francisco reports three years of drought in the Central Valley has turned America's salad bowl into a "dust bowl." (KPIX)
  • Speaking of summer and San Francisco, it appears denizens of the City by the Bay have done such a good job of conserving water, their water agency has already decided there will be no mandatory restrictions this summer. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • Meanwhile, SFGate columnist Mark Morford wonders how water availability will factor into property values for summer get-aways north of San Francisco:

Wait, what? Right, the water. The Looming Issue. The Unexpected Fear. Water – or rather, the potential lack thereof – is something I didn’t realize I’d be quite so worried about when I started my search. But now? It’s damn near unavoidable. (SFGate)


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