Here in the land of beauty and make-believe, it’s important to keep up appearances. Tracy Quinn sees it whenever she walks her dog: sprinklers irrigating pretty green lawns and wasted water bleeding across sidewalks during the state’s driest spell in centuries. “It drives me crazy,” said Quinn, a water policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Archive for year: 2016
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Despite five years of record drought, many Californians have not been required to cut their water use. Some wielded a heavy hand at the tap, enjoying green lawns and showy landscapes even as water supplies dried up. This could soon change. If the rains fall short this winter — or whenever the next bad drought descends on California — households are in for a far more serious crackdown on water waste.
In its first year of operations, the nation’s largest and most technologically advanced seawater desalination plant produced enough high-quality, drought-proof water from the Pacific Ocean to meet approximately 10 percent of the region’s demand. The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant quickly generated significant benefits by relieving pressure on imported water supplies, reducing state mandates for emergency conservation measures in March and helping the region pass the state’s stringent water supply stress test in June. After completing construction on schedule, the plant was dedicated on Dec. 14, 2015, in front of more than 600 elected officials, community leaders and project partners.
The Delta smelt has survived 2016, but that’s about where the good news ends. Surveys that wrapped up this month revealed no real increase in smelt numbers despite a wetter year with more freshwater flow in the Delta. In fact, the smelt’s situation may actually have gotten worse: For the first time since the extensive fish surveys began in the late 1960s, officials found smelt just one month out of four. In their many hours spent trawling the Delta with nets from September through December, they found a total of seven smelt, all of them in November.
“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.” Whether or not Mark Twain coined the term, the axiom rings true, especially in the West and specifically the water war between the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The battle raging between the two entities has resulted in higher water rates for customers in San Diego County. In November, the Carlsbad Municipal Water District Board of Directors (the City Council), approved rate increases stemming from a cost of service study.
During the 1920s, the city of Los Angeles was burgeoning. Demographics were changing and geographic boundaries were being pushed out in all directions. Oil was booming, industrialization was in full swing, and water was in high demand. Southern California was very dry and thirsty, on the heels of a drought and on the verge of the Great Depression. Importing water to its residents was a high priority, and in many ways, circumstances then were comparable to California’s present-day drought scenario.
The Colorado River is like a giant bank account for seven different states. Now it’s running short. For decades, the river has fed growing cities from Denver to Los Angeles. A lot of the produce in supermarkets across the country was grown with Colorado River water. But with climate change, and severe drought, the river is reaching a crisis point, and communities at each end of it are reacting very differently. Just outside Boulder, Colo., surrounded by an evergreen forest, is Gross Reservoir.
Donald Trump’s election has jolted environmentalists and voters who care about conservation. Trump has called for abolishing or greatly shrinking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), declared climate change a Chinese hoax and promised to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement. Though Trump appears to have backed off his pledge to “get rid of [EPA] in almost every form,” his choice of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the agency set off alarms in the environmental community.
The community has two extra months to comment on a controversial State Water Resources Control Board document that proposes cutting water use after Board chair Felicia Marcus sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown last week, effectively extending the public comment period into March.This extension comes just two days after the State Water Board held its second-to-last public hearing on Dec. 20 in Modesto, which at its peak was standing-room only.
Numerous storms brought changeable weather to many parts of the country, including significant precipitation in parts of the West, Northeast, and mid-South. Late in the drought-monitoring period, a particularly powerful winter storm produced heavy precipitation from California into the Southwest—and later resulted in a holiday blizzard across the north-central U.S. Meanwhile, the interior Southeast continued to experience varying degrees of drought relief, although streaks of significant rain notably bypassed core drought areas in northern and central Alabama and northern Georgia. In addition, Florida’s peninsula received little rain, exacerbating the effects of short-term dryness.