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BLOG: California: Catching Up With the Irrigation World

It would be easy to think California may not have a lot to learn from farmers in places like the Great Plains. After all, the Golden State is a leader in so many things: computer technology, environmental policy, social justice issues, lifestyle and culinary trends.

But farmers in the Great Plains and other parts of North America have mastered something that is only beginning to creep into California: overhead irrigation. This is the class of crop irrigation tools that includes those giant, crawling center-pivot sprinklers we see from the airplane window as bright green crop circles far below.

OPINION: Drought, climate change increase intensity of California wildfires

It’s only June, but temperatures are headed into 90-degree range, and a major fire is already front page news (“Santa Barbara County fire at 7,811 acres, 45 percent contained,” June 18).

Because of the continuing California drought, authorities predicted another dangerous year, and the Sherpa Fire is one of 1,800 wildfires state and forest service firefighters have battled since January.

In a June 1 Letter to the Editor, “SLO County tackles the health effects of climate change,” rising temperatures, frequent wildfires and drought were included by San Luis Obispo County’s health officer, Penny Borenstein in a list of climate change-caused events that impact human health.

Southern California braces for severe wildfire season

The thousands of acres burning across Southern California this week foreshadow what’s expected to be a severe wildfire season, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said.

Chief Thomas L. Tidwell predicts certain parts of the country — including Southern California and Arizona, where four large, uncontained fires are burning this week  — will have active fire seasons, like Washington and California did last year.

Last year was one of the worst wildfire years since at least 1960, according to records kept by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. More than 10.1 million acres were charred in 68,151 incidents.

Study shows Sierra snowpack 3 years away from pre-drought levels

The Sierra snowpack, which is responsible for more than 60 percent of California’s water, won’t likely make it back to its pre-drought levels until 2019, scientists said in a study published this week, dashing the hopes of those who believed one extremely wet El Niño year could alleviate the state’s water crisis.

In the study, published Tuesday in a journal of the American Geophysical Union, scientists from UCLA concluded that there is a more than 70 percent chance that the Sierra snowpack will take three years to make it back to average levels, after reaching a historic low in March 2015.

State: Dry California Town Soon to Have Running Water Return

Families in a poor farming community where hundreds of domestic wells have dried up during California’s historic drought will soon have clean water again flowing into their homes, officials said Wednesday.

The state announced plans to spend $10 million to begin connecting unincorporated East Porterville in Tulare County to the water system of neighboring Porterville.

With the news, Tomas Garcia, 51, said hope is returning to his neighborhood. The well his family of four depended on for decades ran dry two years ago.


Will San Diegans be Able to Water Their Lawns More in the Near Future?

Are your watering stipulations and conservation efforts about to change for the better?

The San Diego County Water Authority’s initial determination that the San Diego region has an adequate water supply for this and the next three years means the city of San Diego Public Utilities Department will be asking the City Council to enact the Level One Drought Watch condition. The city is currently in Level Two Drought Alert conditions.


Some water agencies say ‘no’ to mandated water cuts despite drought

Municipal water agencies across California are required to report to state officials by midnight Wednesday on whether they have enough water to withstand three more years of drought. If they don’t, a new state conservation plan requires them to calculate how much they need to start saving to meet anticipated demand.

Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board are calling it a “stress test.”

But what if many of the state’s 400-plus local water agencies don’t find much stress?

26 million trees have died in the Sierra since October, raising fire risk

A lethal combination of drought, heat and voracious bark beetles has killed 26 million trees in the Sierra Nevada over the last eight months — an alarming finding for a state already raging with wildfires fueled by desiccated landscapes.

The dire estimate offered Wednesday by federal officials brings the loss of trees since 2010 to at least 66 million, a number that is expected to increase considerably throughout the year, despite an average winter of rain and snow that brought some relief to urban Californians.

‘Seismic strain’: Land around the San Andreas fault is rising and sinking, new earthquake research shows

For the first time, scientists have produced a computer image showing huge sections of California rising and sinking around the San Andreas fault.

The vertical movement is the result of seismic strain that will be ultimately released in a large earthquake.

The San Andreas fault is California’s longest earthquake fault, and one of the state’s most dangerous. Scientists have long expected that parts of California are rising — and other parts sinking — around the fault in a way that is ongoing, very subtle and extremely slow.

Baby bald eagle gets its own ‘no fly zone’ as choppers battle wildfire

Firefighters battling a pair of wildfires in the San Gabriel Mountains have been instructed to avoid a 1,000-foot radius area around a nest where a baby eagle is getting ready to fledge, a U.S. Forest Service official said Wednesday.

The bald eagle’s nest is not located in part of the forest where the Reservoir and Fish fires are burning. The buffer zone above and around the nest is intended for water-dumping helicopters, which create noise and air turbulence that could disturb the chick, said Ann Berkley, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service.