As California suffers through another dry winter, increasing fears that drought conditions may be returning, the state’s residents are dropping conservation habits that were developed during the last drought and steadily increasing their water use with each passing month. A new analysis of state water records by this news organization found California’s urban residents used 13.7 percent less water last year in the first eight months after Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to the drought emergency than they used in the same eight-month period in 2013.
Archive for date: February 14th, 2018
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More than three years ago, on Nov. 4, 2014, 67 percent of voters approved California Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. The nearly 4.8 million Californians who voted for the bond did so knowing that new water storage was crucial for addressing longer and more frequent drought periods, punctuated by flashier storm systems. On top of that, the governor and state representatives have made it clear they consider new water storage a key component in upgrading our water infrastructure.
On hearing that Day Zero just got pushed back a couple of months, the casual news consumer might be forgiven for confusing this with a bulletin from the Doomsday Clock scientists who predict the likelihood of worldwide nuclear devastation. But no, that metaphorical clock is still set at two minutes to midnight. Day Zero is the coming time when Cape Town, South Africa will essentially run out of municipal water for its 4 million residents — and for the visitors, too, who have long flocked to the beautiful, cosmopolitan city with a Mediterranean climate startlingly like our own.
The county of San Diego is bracing itself for the next chapter in a years-long legal saga over its plans to limit greenhouse gases. The board of supervisors unanimously approved on Wednesday its latest iteration of a so-called Climate Action Plan — once again drawing the ire of environmental groups and concerned residents who say elected officials aren’t taking the issue seriously.
Anyone caught wasting water in California may be fined as much as $500 under new rules being considered by the state water board. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to adopt regulation coming before the board on Feb. 20 that would make it a crime to commit any of seven wasteful water practices — from lawn over watering to street median irrigation. Those rules would take effect April 1. “These are permanent prohibitions on wasteful water uses,” said Max Gomberg, a climate and conservation manager for the state board. The ruling would formally make the rules part of the state code.
We’re glad to see the state government is finally realizing Californians just aren’t going to save water merely because it’s the right thing to do. The signs of a dry winter have been piling up for months, and yet the statewide water saving rate has continued to decline. It’s been going that way since the Water Resources Control Board decided last spring to let the state’s water providers set their own conservation targets, and virtually all of them choose zero.
Scientists have some sobering news about the future of our planet: Even if humans manage to meet the temperature target set forth in the Paris climate change agreement, record-breaking weather events will become increasingly common around the world. And that’s the good part. The Paris plan seeks to keep Earth’s global average temperature within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels by getting people to reduce their carbon emissions. According to the United Nations, 174 countries have signed on to the agreement.
Weather experts spent much of this winter cautiously optimistic. There were still weeks to go in the wet season and the reservoirs were full, thanks to last winter’s near record-breaking rain and snow. Now, even the professionals are getting more than a little nervous. There have been weeks of hardly any rain. The Sierra Nevada has received record-low amounts of snow. Meanwhile, the calendar is flipping ever closer to California’s blast furnace dry season. “The outlook isn’t good,” said David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys with the Department of Water Resources.
The driest December in California’s recorded history was followed by a relieving gush of rain in January, when it seemed there was a chance the state would be on track to receive at least its average level of precipitation. Now, shortly after a record-breaking midwinter heatwave and seemingly endless blue skies, general optimism is waning as February shapes up to be even drier than December, despite a soaking Los Angeles received on Monday.
Earlier this week, KPCC learned Southern California’s largest water importer, the Metropolitan Water District, was considering more than doubling its investment in a plan to reconfigure how supplies are diverted from one of the region’s most important sources of water: the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta just east of San Francisco. Three MWD board members have floated the idea of spending an additional $6 billion to revive a plan to build two giant tunnels under the delta.