In a state where dead trees in the Sierra Nevada still stand as a testament to a severe seven-year stretch of dry weather that ended in 2017, some nervously wonder whether the state may slide back into a drought. In the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, ocean temperatures are pretty stable. That means there’s no El Niño or La Niña sitting out there to help drive a chain of storms to dump rainfall on the Valley and snow in the Sierra Nevada as the calendar closes on 2018.
Archive for month: December, 2018
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A couple with rights to take water from a Trinity County creek has been fined $10,000 for overstating the amount of water they diverted, at one point claiming they used more water than is actually available on Earth. As part of an agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board, the couple has agreed to pay for misstating the amount of water they took from Price Creek, a tributary to the Trinity River. Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the Water Board the amount used.
As the Golden State moves into 2019, it will close the book on an abnormally dry year with hopes that a few rain storms can stave off the prospect of another drought. Two consecutive years of devastating wildfires killing dozens of residents, causing billions in property damage and reducing millions of acres to ash has demonstrated the effects of the prolonged drought stretching from 2012 until 2017. Storms finally brought much-needed precipitation in 2017, replenishing reservoirs and aquifers, but the moisture content in the forest vegetation and the swathes of dead trees in the Sierra Nevada attest to the consequences of the sustained dry weather.
2018 went out wet in San Diego County. 2019 comes in windy. Strong winds are expected in the county mountains from early morning New Year’s Day through early afternoon, with some spots seeing gusts of 45 mph. The inland valleys could see 25 mph gusts Tuesday, and 15 mph gusts are possible at the coast. The winds, which are coming out of the northeast, are expected to be much stronger in the San Bernardino and Orange County mountains, where gusts could reach 65 mph. Blustery conditions are forecast for the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Tuesday morning.
In this week’s Environment Report, let’s focus on an issue that doesn’t always get much attention in Southern California: the rivers of Northern California. Every so often, people get together and divide a river. That’s been happening a lot lately in the final throes of Gov. Jerry Brown’s term. State and federal water officials have worked furiously to redo how we all share the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers and their numerous tributaries. At stake for cities and farms is how much water will be available and at what price. At stake for fish is their very existence.
Across the mountains of the West, the landscape of winter is changing. Deep snowpacks that held fast through winter, then melted in a torrent each spring, are instead seeping away earlier in the year. The period of winter weather is shrinking, too, with autumn lasting longer and spring starting earlier. The findings by Amato Evan, a professor of atmospheric and climate science with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, show changes to Western hydrology that could jeopardize water resources, flood control, fire management and winter recreation.
It’s been hard to see 2018 as a good year for water in California. In November, voters rejected a bond that would have provided almost $9 billion for water resource infrastructure and protection projects across the state. Congress, with support from Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, worked to sidestep important environmental protections for the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. And the Trump administration rolled back protections for hundreds of miles of streams and rivers in the Southwest as well as thousands of acres of wetlands.
Recent droughts across the West have belted drinking-water supplies, withered crops and fanned deadly wildfires. They’ve also squeezed hydroelectric facilities, with the less obvious side effect of hampering efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
Girls and women interested in learning about career and advancement opportunities in the water and wastewater industry are encouraged to register for the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies’ second annual Women in Water – Exploring Career Pathways symposium on Jan. 17. The all-day conference comprises two tracks of speakers: one for women contemplating a career change, military veterans transitioning to civilian life, and women already in the water and wastewater industry who are seeking professional development opportunities; the second for scores of high school girls in the region wanting to learn more about career opportunities as they near graduation.
With more than 30 years in water resource management and planning, Kirby Brill has come out of retirement to serve as interim general manager at Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA). The IEUA Board of Directors unanimously appointed Brill to the agency’s top management position at the board’s Dec. 14 meeting. Brill retired in mid-2017 after having served for 17 years as general manager for Mojave Water Agency (MWA) based in Apple Valley. Although he began his career in the private sector he transitioned to the public sector when he took a position with the Orange County Water District (OCWD).