drought

Is Brown’s Massive Water Project the Right Idea Right Now?

This week’s declaration by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service that the massive Delta tunnels proposed by the Jerry Brown administration would not cause the extinction of several imperiled fish species gave a significant boost to the behemoth project. Still, other impediments must be overcome before the digging starts and the concrete flows. Read more about Is Brown's Massive Water Project the Right Idea Right Now? »

The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump?

The Bay-Delta, comprised of San Francisco Bay and the shared delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, is the largest estuary on the west coast of the continental United States. It sustains valuable salmon and Dungeness crab fisheries, supports hundreds of family farmers who work the rich peat soils of its reclaimed islands, serves as a recreational relief valve for millions of Bay Area urbanites and the main source of drinking water for around 25 million Californians. Read more about The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump? »

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.” Read more about Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor. »

Flowing Consequences: Was Lifting Our Water Restrictions Really a Wise Move?

The decision by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to lift mandatory water restrictions is good news for any Californian who likes to raise petunias and zucchini and take showers lasting longer than three minutes. But is it really a good idea? After all, last winter’s greatly hyped and much-anticipated El Niño turned out to be something of a bust. Read more about Flowing Consequences: Was Lifting Our Water Restrictions Really a Wise Move? »

California’s Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons

The drought may not have caused California’s water crisis, but it’s certainly brought it to the attention of a public largely uninterested in it until government fiat made shorter showers and dead lawns de rigueur. State water demand has outstripped supply for decades. Water rights claims for the massive State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project outpace average annual supplies by at least five fold. Read more about California's Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons »

All’s Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water

The drought gets a lot of undeserved blame for California’s water crisis. Naturally, four dry years have exacerbated the problem, but the real culprit is the state’s Gold Rush–era water law, which has allowed landowners to sink wells that suck ever deeper and drier— unfettered by any accountability to their neighbors, their region, or the state. Historically low groundwater levels have resulted, spawning all kinds of Wild West drama. The Central Valley is sinking! A thousand Tulare County wells go dry! Read more about All's Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water »

Is This El Niño Really Set to Bring Epic Precipitation? Be Careful What You Wish For…

With perhaps one of the most intense El Niño ever recorded simmering like a massive coddled egg off the coast, Californians are bracing for precipitation on an epic scale. More than that: They’re hoping for it. There is a general sense that even the rampaging floods that can result from a full-blown El Niño-driven winter would be tolerable as long as our reservoirs fill and aquifers recharge and we can get back to long showers and adequately watered hydrangeas. Read more about Is This El Niño Really Set to Bring Epic Precipitation? Be Careful What You Wish For... »

Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests

The recent rains have blunted the psychological impact of California’s four-year drought, washing down the streets, perking up the landscaping, and heightening anticipation for a stormy El Nino-driven winter. We know, however, that one wet year is highly unlikely to end water shortages. What we may not fully grasp is that the damage done to the state’s forests is so far reaching that it may be permanent. Read more about Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests »

Effluent Communities: Why Drought Will Mean Learning to Drinking Treated Sewage

It’s the kind of subject that lends itself to the lowest of low humor, but we’ll try to resist that temptation. Because at bottom (sorry), it’s among the most serious of subjects, speaking as it does to basic survival. We’re talking about water (again), of course. But more specifically, we’re talking about blackwater: Sewage.  And even more particularly, recycling sewage, treating it to the potable level and–gulp–drinking it again. Read more about Effluent Communities: Why Drought Will Mean Learning to Drinking Treated Sewage »

A Fish Tale with a Dam Hero? Pulling Coho Salmon Back from the Brink in Russian River

If the drought is hard on California’s lawns, it’s sheer murder on the state’s fish—especially the “salmonids,” that family of cold-water fishes that includes trout and salmon. But one rare salmon species is doing fairly well in the current water crisis. And it’s being helped by the kind of project usually associated with the wholesale destruction of native fisheries. Read more about A Fish Tale with a Dam Hero? Pulling Coho Salmon Back from the Brink in Russian River »

Saving the Sequoias: The Most Magisterial of Trees in California Face a Big Risk

Ronald Reagan was (in)famously unmoved by ancient forests, claiming that “when you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” But most of us still feel a frisson when we stroll among old-growth trees, particularly when they’re the biggest dang trees on the planet: Sequoiadendron giganteum, otherwise known as giant sequoias. (That’s biggest by volume, by the way. Coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, may be taller but typically are more slender.) Read more about Saving the Sequoias: The Most Magisterial of Trees in California Face a Big Risk »

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