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Drier February Raises Concerns El Nino is Fading

California’s recent trend toward warmer, drier weather has raised concerns that El Nino may be a bust and that the 5-year-old drought may hang around much longer. The Sierra Nevada snowpack has fallen below normal levels, and state data show Californians have been slipping in their monthly water-savings efforts.

“As a percent of normal, it keeps dipping because we’re supposed to be accumulating during this time not having bright sunny skies,” said California’s state climatologist Michael Anderson.

California Water Bond Funding Will Begin to Flow

Two years ago, Californians voted to pass Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion general obligation bond, also known as the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. As part of developing a comprehensive water plan for California’s future, Proposition 1 provides $2.7 billion of continuously appropriated funds for the Water Storage Investment Project (“WSIP”) through a competitive grant process.

The California Water Commission (“CWC”) is the state agency that has been charged with overseeing the allocation of the funds. The CWC is currently accepting written public comments through March 14, 2016, and accepting concept papers until March 31, 2016. The CWC must develop regulations to quantify the public benefits of water storage projects by December 15, 2016.

Lost Water Is Wasted Water

Last June, at the height of California’s drought, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that a homeowner in Bel-Air was using 1,300 gallons of water per hour. Annually, that works out to about 11.8 million gallons – enough water supply for 90 average households.

Reaction was immediate. Water agencies, other homeowners, and the public denounced the waste of water by the unidentified homeowner as careless and irresponsible.

The Disappearing Wetlands in California’s Central Valley

Each year, 181 species of waterfowl, shorebirds and riparian birds flock to California’s Central Valley to nest between November and March. The space they roost in is already limited: There are just 19 wetlands, comprised of National Wildlife Refuges and State Wildlife Areas, spread across little more than 270 square miles in the valley’s 22,500-square-mile expanse.

But over the past five years during the state’s historic drought, those birds have returned, only to find once watery areas no longer suitable for nesting. If dry conditions persist, the little remaining space could disappear.

California Does Not Get Expected February Rain But Hope Springs Eternal For March

Californians who hoped that El Nino-driven storms would unleash a heavy dousing to the drought-parched state in February instead saw less rain than normal for the month, but forecasters said March could still deliver.

Predictions of an El Nino winter, bringing a series of heavy storms to the West Coast, had been greeted optimistically in California, which has grappled with a crippling, four-year drought that has killed millions of trees and cost the state’s agricultural economy an estimated $1.84 billion.

El Niño, La Niña: How Do They Mess With Our Weather?

Given the odd weather of late, you may be aware that we are in the midst of what could be a record-setting El Niño. Rumors of a switch to La Niña later this year have also danced into the public’s ear, particularly those with an interest in commodity markets.

But comprehension of such a scenario, and what it may mean, is quite difficult without an understanding of what El Niño and La Niña are and why they exist.

California is About to Get a Ton of Rain, But It’s Still Not Enough to Beat the Drought

There’s a ton of rain in the forecast for California. A fire hose of moisture from the tropical Pacific Ocean is expected to take aim at the West Coast, delivering a series of storms to the Golden State. But although the weather pattern appears to be changing, the drought is not, and even a wetter-than-average March may be too little, too late.

The precipitation outlook through mid-March looks great for the West, and California in particular. While much of February was dominated by high pressure and sunshine, forecast models are predicting a pattern change over the next week that will lead to more storms coming off the Pacific and more chances for rain and snow.

Marin Assemblyman Levine’s Bill Uses Australian Approach to Address Drought

Assemblyman Marc Levine has introduced a bill that could put California on the road to developing a water trading market similar to one pioneered by Australia during its “millennium drought.”

“I looked at how Australia dealt with its 14-year drought and saw that water transfers had a good deal to do with them using their water more efficiently,” said Levine, a Democrat who lives in Marin. “I wanted to take the best lessons from how other countries have struggled with drought and apply them to California.”

Showers Expected to Roll in After Dry February

San Francisco will quench its thirst for rain once again this week when a series of storms predicted to hit The City as early as Thursday roll in, according to the National Weather Service.

The storms come after a dry month for San Francisco, which pulled in a mere 0.09 inches of rainfall in February, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster for the weather service.

California Reservoirs Are Dumping Water in a Drought, but Science Could Change That

There’s a rule in California that may seem bizarre in a drought-stricken state: in the winter, reservoirs aren’t allowed to fill up completely.

In fact, even as this post goes up, a handful of reservoirs are releasing water to maintain empty space. The practice, which has long inflamed combatants in California’s water wars, is due to a decades-old rule designed to protect public safety. If a major winter storm comes in, reservoirs need space to catch the runoff and prevent floods.