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Deadly California Wildfires Spark Debate About Development

A speeding wildfire in California that turned hundreds of homes near Lake Isabella to piles of twisted rubble has forced a conversation about how to minimize destruction in the most populous state experiencing the effects of climate change.

Wildfires in the last years have killed several people in California, a drought-prone state experiencing a five-year dry spell.

Weather is one factor, but more critical is the state’s exploding population, spawning communities in the once sparsely inhabited ranch and timberland regions long known to burn, experts say.

Israel Leading a ‘Water Revolution’ in Arid California

Having made the desert bloom and become the world leader in water management, Israel is now helping parched California solve its water problems.

The Israel-California Water Conference, taking place Wednesday at Los Angeles’s Marina Del Rey, with an additional event on Thursday in San Diego, is the brainchild of the Economy Ministry’s Israel NewTech program, the Israel Economic Mission to the West Coast, and the Israel Export Institute. The conference will introduce Californian public officials, business leaders, policy makers and researchers to 24 Israeli companies that offer water storage, management, treatment, recycling and leak detection solutions.

California Has Three Times Supply of Groundwater Than Previously Thought

There’s a vast amount of untapped water in California, but whether it can make any difference for the drought-stricken state remains unclear. A new Stanford study indicates California’s groundwater supply is three times greater than previous estimates and could represent a potential “water windfall,” its authors say.

“There’s far more fresh water and usable water than we expected,” said Robert Jackson, co-author of the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

OPINION: Water Fights Favored Over Water Fixes

Given the history of California’s water wars, it is not surprising that when a judge issued a ruling last week to clarify a decision he made last month, both sides immediately disagreed what the latest ruling meant.

So much for clarity. What Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny did seems pretty unambiguous: He declared the Delta Plan “invalid.” That apparently means either “it’s dead,” or “there are a couple of minor flaws we have to fix.” The Delta Plan is the latest of a string of efforts launched­ to repair the collapsing ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Salton Sea Restoration Gets $80.5 Million In State Budget

The state budget Gov. Jerry Brown signed this week includes $80.5 million for restoration of the Salton Sea — more than California has ever allocated for the state’s largest and most troubled lake.

“This is a great step in the right direction. I don’t think anyone, including the state, believes that this is enough to solve the problem, but it certainly starts us on the path of management techniques that can solve the problem,” said Bruce Wilcox, assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy at the California Natural Resources Agency.

A Third Of California’s Deep Groundwater Aquifers Are Being Used For Oil And Gas

California has a lot more usable groundwater than previously thought — but that water might already be in danger from oil and gas extraction in the state.

A study released this week by Stanford scientists shows that there is nearly three times more groundwater in California’s Central Valley than earlier surveys had indicated. “It’s not often that you find a ‘water windfall,’ but we just did,” study co-author Robert Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford, said in the study’s release. “There’s far more fresh water and usable water than we expected.”

Water Markets May Help California Better Manage Its Water

California’s famous moniker – the Golden State – is becoming all too accurate as the state enters the fifth year of drought and the summer heat begins to dry out its rolling hillsides. A lackluster El Niño failed to deliver a promised deluge of rain and ultimately brought only an average amount of precipitation – far from what was needed to make up for several years of record low rains and snow packs.

California’s natural drought cycles are made worse by ineffective water management policies – policies that drown water managers in top-down, command and control regulations.

Relief for Fallen Trees on the Way

Relief may be coming soon for many Mountain Area homeowners left with dead trees in their yards after they were cut down by companies contracted with Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The trees, killed by bark beetle infestations, were cut down for safety reasons and to protect power lines, but disposing of the trees, in some cases a massive and expensive undertaking, was left to homeowners.

NASA Maps California Drought Effects on Sierra trees

A new map created with measurements from an airborne instrument developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, reveals the devastating effect of California’s ongoing drought on Sierra Nevada conifer forests.

After several years of extreme drought, the highly stressed conifers (trees that produce cones and are usually green year-round) of the Sierra Nevada are now more susceptible to bark beetles (Dendroctonus spp.). While bark beetles killing trees in the Sierra Nevada is a natural phenomenon, the scale of mortality in the last couple of years is far greater than previously observed.


OPINION: Mixed Messages on the Drought

Heading back up the hill from the airport, the large digital billboard on Interstate 80 — usually warning us all to be ready to “chain up” due to unsettled weather — seemed like a mixed message from the state of California Sunday night.

“Severe drought … Limit outdoor watering,” the sign displayed. It seemed liked solid advice, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether Caltrans hadn’t gotten the memo that statewide mandatory water restrictions had been lifted. Considering that news, the drought’s over. Right?