Andrew C. Revkin, NYTIMES.COM
On July 29, the U.S. Drought Monitor website had nearly 80 percent of California in either extreme (red) or exceptional (brown) drought.
It’s way past time for California to come to grips with the possibility that its extraordinary water woes are the new normal — and essentially the return of the old normal given the state’s climate history, in which drought has been the rule and the verdant 20th century the exception. In the weekly update to the U.S. Drought Monitor site yesterday, nearly 80 percent of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought conditions.
It could well be that atmospheric circulation will shift and the drought, instead of deepening, will abate. (The state can sometimes get far too wet.) Then the challenge will be to find ways to avoid a “shock to trance” approach to water policy.
Hoping for the best works fine if it’s combined with planning for the worst. And the worst is years, even decades, of dry times. Global warming from an unabated buildup of greenhouse gases could drive conditions in the drier direction.
via How Conservation and Groundwater Management Can Gird California for a Drier Era – NYTimes.com.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
California’s State Water Resources Control Board raised the stakes on wasteful water use Tuesday, adopting emergency drought regulations that require mandatory conservation and authorize local officials to impose fines of up to $500 a day.
In taking what the board believes to be an unprecedented action, its five appointed members made it clear they wanted all Californians to understand the magnitude of the current water crisis and to act collectively to preserve water supplies in case there are more dry years to come.
But under the leadership of Chairwoman Felicia Marcus, they underscored the discretion granted to local officials to pursue conservation goals according to locally formulated plans and preferences. They said the board wanted to avoid interfering where existing efforts are working well, while maintaining the ability to intervene.
via State board clears way for fines for excessive | The Press Democrat.
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Most mornings, Randall Barron gets his start when the sun comes up. His calendar is packed, his car trunk full. Barron is one of Santa Rosa’s four “water cops” — officially, water resource specialists who patrol the city’s streets in search of water waste.
This summer, as the drought lingers on and the state’s water woes deepen, most of Barron’s time is spent traveling house to house, helping people find ways to save water.
“It all started the second Jerry Brown said the ‘D’ word,” Barron said referring to the work that began with the governor’s drought declaration in January. “I went from being able to see people in two or three days, and now it takes me a month or more to get to them.”
via Local cities encouraging water savings through incentives | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan & Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A move by the state to impose mandatory water conservation measures on residents around California is poised to trigger tough new restrictions on landscape irrigation and other outdoor water use to preserve dwindling supplies in the now extended drought.
The proposal, which focuses largely on urban water users and will affect residents up and down the North Coast, calls for mandatory monthly reporting by most water suppliers to monitor each community’s overall consumption and per capita water use.
It also includes provisions for hefty fines for individuals who defy water restrictions.
The shift toward mandatory conservation reflects the ongoing severity of California’s drought, as well as fears that next year may be no better, said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board, which is set to consider adopting the measures next week. The proposal also reflects the failure of voluntary conservation efforts to reduce water consumption by the 20 percent goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown in January. A voluntary survey of water suppliers in April put statewide reductions at only 5 percent.
via In new drought move, state plan would cut outdoor water use, impose fines (w/video) | The Press Democrat.
Craig Miller, KQED SCIENCE
Three years into a historic drought, we’re hearing a lot of talk about resilience in California. For inspiration, Californians might do well to look south — all the way to Australia.
“We had here a phenomenon that people called ‘bucket back,’” says Rebecca Nelson, describing the back strain Aussies would suffer from catching the excess shower water in buckets and hauling it outside to water the garden. Nelson is a research fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. She lives in Australia, which recently endured a nine-year drought — something that hasn’t happened in California for at least a century. (There were two six-year droughts in the 20th century.)
Bucket back was the least of it. The stretch that came to be known as the Big Dry was the worst drought in Australia’s history. During the first decade of this century, it devastated the farm economy (at one point halving the number of sheep, the nation’s principal livestock) and triggered severe restrictions on urban water use. But Nelson says it also transformed the water culture in that country. She says some ways they found to adapt were relatively painless — and much of it stuck.
via Drought Lessons From Down Under | Science | KQED Public Media for Northern CA.
Brenda Adelman, Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
SCWA’s conservation goal was to motivate people to cut 20% of their water use voluntarily. If successful, we would expect the result to be a 20% drop in contractor water sales. But at least five of the eight prime contractors purchased MORE water in the 2013-2014 water year than in 2012-2013.
Giving credit where it is due, because of Sonoma County Water Agency’s extensive year long media campaign calling for voluntary conservation, it’s hard to imagine that many water users in our County do not know we have been experiencing the worst drought of recorded history, even when substantial rain finally poured on our parched area in February and March.
Thankfully, after only 8.5” of rain in Santa Rosa during all of 2013 (normal is 32”), we were graced with over 17” rainfall so far this year and maybe more to come. (Numbers higher in western Sonoma County.) Lake Mendocino, with water supply pool less than one third full at the end of January, is now at 50%, still causing severe water shortages north of Dry Creek, including Healdsburg.
Lake Sonoma, upon which SCWA contractors and the lower river depends, contains triple Lake Mendocino’s capacity, and is at 76.43% as of late April. SCWA’s on-going vigorous media campaign assures that water saving messages continue to be heard. While we are in a better water supply position for 2014 compared to last year regarding Lake Sonoma, the drought has provided a wake up call about water supply limits and has stimulated new considerations for the management of water resources with more future shortages in mind.
via Is Voluntary Conservation Enough?.
The rains from February and late March have made a big difference in the drought outlook for the Russian River. Since the end of January we were staring at a possibly empty Lake Mendocino… the rains will ensure the Lake does not run dry later this year (see graph). This is a big deal and will help wildlife, fish and people get through this summer. We still need to conserve water to help us get through this summer and prepare us in case we get a dry 2015 as well. The good news is that rather than having to consider going to 50% or greater conservation levels, communities upstream of Dry Creek will likely need only 25% to get through summer.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The North Coast needs an additional foot of rain between now and May just to get back to drought conditions seen in 1977, and even then Lake Mendocino could still go bone dry by autumn for the first time in recorded history, water officials said Tuesday.
The warning stunned North Coast grape growers who packed a Cloverdale meeting hall Tuesday to discuss ways of saving their crops amid the worst drought any of them can recall.
None of the strategies, which ranged from installing more wind machines to covering ponds with plastic tarps to reduce evaporation, compared with what everyone agreed is the most pressing need: more rain and lots of it.
If Lake Mendocino runs dry, it could be disaster for growers, in particular those with vineyards along the upper Russian River. Many rely on water from Lake Mendocino for irrigation, as well as for frost protection.
“If you’re below Dry Creek, it’s going to be a bad year. If you’re above Dry Creek, it’s going to be a biblical year,” said Sean White, general manager of the Russian River Flood Control District.
via Drought conditions concern North Coast grape growers | The Press Democrat.
Ryan Johnston, DAILY ACTS
Please join Daily Acts to launch the biggest and boldest 350 Home and Garden Challenge ever! You will meet the organizers and partners, learn about the many exciting ways that you can get involved in this year’s Challenge, and be inspired. We will provide snacks, drinks, and tangible ideas for ways you can make your home, garden, and community more resilient!
This year’s 350 Home & Garden Challenge will center on May 18th and 19th, when thousands of people across Sonoma County will again rise to the challenge of creating a more sustainable community. Building upon the incredible success of 628 garden actions in 2010, 1,044 actions in 2011, and 2,304 in 2012, our goal this year is to inspire 3,500 actions to save water, save energy, grow food, and build community. And to continue to broaden the charge, we’re adding two new action areas: live local and green your ride. Small or large, every action counts. Only together can we become more food and energy independent, and build the strength, health, beauty, and resilience of our communities!
350 Home & Garden Challenge Kick-Off Party
Monday, March 25th, 6-8:30pm
Laguna Environmental Center, 900 Sanford Road
Santa Rosa, CA, 95401
RSVP kindly requested: https://events.nonprofiteasy.net/dailyacts/eventdetails?EventId=14024
For more information about the 350 Home & Garden Challenge, please visit www.dailyacts.org/campaigns