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California Water Alliance Changes Initiative Plans

There’s a stall in a movement to change California water policy. The California Water Alliance is pulling back its signature gathering campaign in order to change the wording on its proposed ballot measure. Sabrina Hill has more. Karen Musson, co-owner of Gar Tootelian, and a supporter of the California Water Alliance’s measure says it’s an opportunity to build on what has been learned so far. She says she’s thankful to all the people who have helped with the signature gathering.

Energy Briefs: Better groundwater management needed in California, researchers say

Energy Briefs is a weekly recollection of local, regional, national and international news regarding some of the most intriguing news updates regarding energy, water and the environment.

A report from a group of researchers at Stanford’s Water in the West program and the Gould Center for Conflict Resolution at the Stanford Law School found shortcomings in the way that groundwater is managed and used throughout the state.


‘The Blob’ overshadows El Nino

El Niño exerted powerful effects around the globe in the last year, eroding California beaches; driving drought in northern South America, Africa and Asia; and bringing record rain to the U.S. Pacific Northwest and southern South America. In the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast, however, the California Current Ecosystem was already unsettled by an unusual pattern of warming popularly known as “The Blob.”

California almond harvest likely to set record, feds say

A federal agency projects a record almond crop in California this year, based on sampling results announced Wednesday.

The orchards will yield an estimated 2.05 billion pounds, up from an even 2 billion in a May projection, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. It would eclipse the record of 2.03 billion pounds in 2011 if the forecast pans out during a harvest starting next month in Stanislaus and other counties.

The agency based the May estimate on a telephone survey of growers about how the nuts were developing. Wednesday’s number came from detailed measurements in a sampling of orchards.

The Shrinking of the American Lawn

The American house is growing. These days, the average new home encompasses 2,500 square feet, about 50 percent more area than the average house in the late 1970s, according to Census data. Compared to the typical house of 40 years ago, today’s likely has another bathroom and an extra bedroom, making it about the same size as the Brady Bunch house, which famously fit two families.

This expansion has come at a cost: the American lawn.

The first diagram shows what the average house looked like in 1978, when it measured 1,650 square feet and sat on 0.22 acres. The second shows its counterpart from 2015.

As forests decline, observers cite mismanagement

From state highways, foothill campgrounds and aerial surveys, it’s easy to see the catastrophic tree die-off in California forests. What isn’t as easily grasped is the scale of rapidly expanding tree mortality in the state’s 40 million acres of forestland—and what to do about it.

The U.S. Forest Service said in June that its survey showed more than 66 million trees, mostly pine species, have died in the southern Sierra Nevada alone, and more are dying. Forestry experts say the scale of the die-off is beyond anything ever observed.


Fire season could be most dangerous in years

A recent survey of the Sierra conducted by the U.S. Forest Service paints a disturbing picture of the fuel conditions across Central and Southern California.

Continuous drought the past five years has weakened trees, allowing them to be susceptible to the bark beetle. The recent number of dead trees in the Central Sierra is 66 million, providing a heavy concentration of dead and highly combustible fire material, especially in the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests.


Drought is less bleak so restrictions ease up

The weather is wetter than last year amid California’s ongoing drought, but the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s request to conserve water citywide hasn’t dried up yet.

The SFPUC voted unanimously June 28 to maintain water conservation while easing up on last year’s mandatory water usage restrictions, which required local commercial water customers to reduce their outdoor potable-water irrigation by up to 25 or 30 percent. Nonresidential customers faced excess-usage fees that will now be lowered, and are required to reduce usage by only 10 percent.

Modesto to turn splash fountains back on

Kids will have another way to keep their cool starting Friday when Modesto turns back on some of its splash fountains, which it turned off two summers ago because of the drought.

The City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to grant an exemption for the splash fountains from the city’s drought rules. The fountains could reopen as soon as Friday afternoon.

Councilwoman Kristi Ah You cast the “no” vote. In an interview, Ah You said she is concerned about the drought and that there are other options for kids, such as public swimming pools.

Statewide Water Conservation Grows to 28 Percent in May

The State Water Resources Control Board announced today that Californians reduced residential water use by 28 percent in May, compared with the same month in 2013. Cumulatively, local water suppliers have saved 1.6 million acre feet in the 12 months since mandatory conservation goals began – enough water to supply eight million people for a year. “The phenomenal ongoing water conservation by state residents as we enter the hottest summer months clearly shows Californians understand we remain in stubborn drought conditions statewide and that saving water is just the smart thing to do,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.