The crippling wintertime droughts that struck California from 2013 to 2015, as well as this year’s unusually wet California winter, appear to be associated with the same phenomenon: a distinctive wave pattern that emerges in the upper atmosphere and circles the globe. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found in a recent study that the persistent high-pressure ridge off the west coast of North America that blocked storms from coming onshore during the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 was associated with the wave pattern, which they call wavenumber-5.
Archive for date: April 6th, 2017
An unusually strong spring storm will add more snow to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where winter storms left behind the most robust snowpack in the last six years. A brief bout of rainfall, possibly accompanied by strong winds, is expected in the Los Angeles area Saturday with more significant precipitation to the north. The storm could be the most powerful the Sierra Nevada Mountains have seen in April in a decade.
April 1 is a telling date in California water policy each year. All the measurements — snowpack, water in reservoirs — are compared to that date. And this April 1, there was something very interesting to note. We all know it’s been a wet winter, but on April 1, most of California’s reservoirs were not full. We know there are some other issues in play with Lake Oroville — just 76 percent full at the end of the day April 1 — but most of the other lakes were down too. Shasta was 89 percent full, Trinity 90 percent, Folsom just 60 percent.
As working families across the San Diego region struggle to make ends meet, the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has no such concerns. That’s because the MWD can tax and raise rates at will – and it has done precisely that. Several steps removed from nearly 20 million residents it serves, MWD overcharged ratepayers $847 million more than the agency’s budgets said was needed from 2012 to 2015. To make matters worse, MWD overspent its budget by $1.2 billion from 2013 to 2016 on things like buying Bay-Delta islands ($175 million) and turf replacement ($420 million).
The Salton Sea—California’s largest lake—faces an environmental crisis. The already-shrinking desert lake will receive less water starting next year, which will accelerate the exposure of toxic dust along its shore, increase its already high salinity, and reduce a food source and habitat for hundreds of bird species that rely on the lake. The sea, which was created by a break in a Colorado River irrigation canal in the 1900s, for decades relied on irrigation runoff from local farms for sustenance.
In this year of record rainfall, billions of gallons of water are flowing to the ocean that – if only sufficient storage existed – could be stored for the drought that inevitably will return. If ever there were an argument for construction of Sites Reservoir to the west of the Sacramento River, this winter’s rain is it. The project is poised to get welcome support from Southern California. The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler reported Thursday that the Southern California Metropolitan Water District is considering investing a modest sum, $1.5 million, to help plan for the $4.4 billion project in Glenn and Colusa counties.
Two bills introduced this week would require mandatory lead testing at schools in California and Texas. House Bill 2395 was introduced by Rep. Nicole Collier, (D-Fort Worth), and would require the state’s 1,200 school districts and charters to pay for annual water supply testing, which is estimated to cost up to $3,000 per building, according to The Texas Tribune. Several Texas school districts have begun voluntarily testing their water, and replacing water fountains in some instances.
It was obvious even during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump didn’t know much about water policy and didn’t have much inclination to learn. Now we have some hard evidence that his ignorance won’t keep him from stepping into a water policy quagmire. The evidence comes from an Interior Department ruling that appears to be aimed at clearing the way for a controversial, environmentally dangerous and largely pointless private water project out in the Mojave Desert.
State legislators aren’t getting answers about the Lake Oroville spillway. Neither is the federal government. Or the county government. Or journalists. Or the public. But matters are coming to a head as two north state legislators whose districts include Lake Oroville are demanding answers. It’s about time. Last Thursday, Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, admitted at a public appearance that he had many questions about the broken spillway — more questions than answers.