Prolific rain and snow storms in Northern California during recent weeks offer hope that the state’s six-year drought will finally end in 2017. Even if that’s the case, the year ahead will be filled with major water-related issues that will impact the region’s residential and commercial water users. For starters, the state is expected to release emergency water-use regulations this month.
Archive for date: January 18th, 2017
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A series of three storms, the first arriving late Wednesday, is expected to drench Southern California — but one group that’s welcomed California’s recent wet weather is citrus growers. The drought has had a big impact on the state’s citrus industry, but now Bob Blakely with California Citrus Mutual, an advocacy group for the state’s citrus growers, says that this year’s wet weather has been a big positive.
Sometimes, it takes a dry sense of humor to deal with a years-long drought—especially when you’ve watched a wave of storms hammer Northern California and realize your end of the state is missing out. “Better rain dances” is what Ken Doty said he’d need to alleviate the parched conditions at his Goleta orchards, where he grows avocados and citrus. “We are getting some rain,” Doty said. “We’re tracking right on the average annual year-to-date figures, but we have not had anywhere near enough to recover from the drought.” Some farmers say they sense a meteorological imbalance.
Amid drenching rains and heavy snowfall this winter, California is moving to ease up a little on its statewide water conservation rules – although not drop them entirely. On Tuesday, the staff of the State Water Resources Control Board recommended that the less-stringent rules the agency put in place last summer should continue at least through May, when they can be re-evaluated after the winter rainy season is over.
Despite drenching rains and heavy snowfall this winter, California moved Tuesday to keep in place its statewide water conservation rules — at least for another three months or so. On Tuesday, the staff of the State Water Resources Control Board recommended that the rules the agency put in place last summer relaxing strict mandates from 2015 should continue at least through May, when they can be re-evaluated after the winter rainy season is over.
The powerful storm that pounded California this week seemed like the break the state so desperately needed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. In fact, there is probably no storm capable of washing away California’s water woes, according to scientists. The state simply is using too much water – even during wet years. As a result, thousands of miles of prime agricultural area in the Central Valley are sinking. Roads and bridges are cracking, threatening to cause $1 billion in damage. Homeowners are watching their water supply dwindle.
The worst area of drought in California has significantly narrowed to a small region northwest of Los Angeles that has stubbornly failed to benefit from Pacific storms that have drenched much of the state since the fall and were lining up again Wednesday. Just 2.1 percent of the state is now deemed to be in “exceptional drought” — a far cry from a year earlier when that label applied to a vast region stretching from greater Los Angeles hundreds of miles up the state’s core to far northern counties.
Water conservation would continue in California until at least May under a proposal regulators are considering. Currently, emergency drought regulations require cities and water agencies to prove they have enough water to meet future demands or they must cut back water use. Those rules are set to expire at the end of February. But the State Water Resources Control Board has proposed extending them, despite the heavy rain and snow this winter.
California schools can now ask their water supplier to test for lead on campus. This affects any school from kindergarten through 12th grade, both public and private. Flint, Michigan served as a warning to everyone on the dangers of lead in the water system. Starting this year, California schools can request their water agency to test their water on site at no cost. California Water Service covers most of the state including customers in Stockton, Dixon and Marysville.
The good news is that rainfall year to date is now slightly above average at Lake Cachuma, which typically supplies half the water needs for South Coast residents. The bad news is that Santa Barbara County remains in the throes of what federal meteorologists describe as “extreme drought conditions.” Only two percent of the California land mass now fits that category and Lake Cachuma qualifies as the most distressed reservoir in California.