Rey León and I drive down an arrow-straight stretch of two-lane asphalt northeast of Huron, in Fresno County, on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley. On one side of the road is a vast cotton field, the bolls white and fat, ripe for the harvester; on the other is a regiment of solar panels covering multiple acres.
A long-debated water plan that could change the course—literally—of water in California, will be up for a vote by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) next month. Originally scheduled for November, the vote has been postponed until December 11, per California Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newson’s request.
Posted on February 20, 2019 - 10:56am
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent lawsuit against the State of California over immigration isn’t just about immigration, of course. More fundamentally, it’s about the limits of states’ rights. The move could be a harbinger of other attempts by the Trump administration to muscle obstreperous states that don’t conform to its agenda. And that begs the question: in what other areas could the feds trump, so to speak, California policies?
Posted on March 13, 2018 - 5:12pm
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.
Posted on June 29, 2017 - 4:31pm
On February 12, 2017, nearly 200,000 Californians got the order to flee for their lives.
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.
Posted on March 14, 2017 - 2:27pm
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.”
Posted on August 24, 2016 - 2:50pm
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.
Posted on May 27, 2016 - 2:52pm
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.
Posted on March 1, 2016 - 10:49am
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!
Posted on January 29, 2016 - 11:15am
From the peculiar to the passionate, the alarming to the inspiring, 2015 never left us at a loss for words, or story ideas.
Posted on December 30, 2015 - 1:24pm
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.
Posted on November 30, 2015 - 7:42am
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.
Posted on November 12, 2015 - 10:31am
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.
Posted on June 11, 2015 - 5:08pm