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Posts Tagged ‘drought’

Steering Toward Sustainability: How California’s New Groundwater Law Can Help Us From Driving Off a Cliff

According to new research by NASA, many of the world’s biggest aquifers are being depleted at a much faster rate than they can be replenished, and California’s Central Valley is among the worst. As we all know, California is in the fourth year of an exceptional drought. When surface water supplies are scarce, we turn to groundwater. Unfortunately, our combined groundwater uses have led to chronic overdraft in many places. Like a bank account, overdraft means we are withdrawing more than we are replacing. Together, this exceptional drought along with the undesirable condition of many groundwater basins, led California to pass the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act last year. The Act is a big deal since it represents the first statewide effort to comprehensively measure and manage groundwater.

Now that the dust is settling, water users and managers are wondering: what does the Act mean for us? Read More

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2015 Wildfire Season in Oregon: Dangerously High Risks Underscore Need for Action on Climate Change

Like much of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon is facing the risk of a bad wildfire season this summer. With 86 percent of the state in drought and 34 percent experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions, Governor Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency for 15 counties. The state’s May water supply outlook predicts that, with sixty percent of the monitoring sites setting records for the lowest peak snowpack levels in 30 years, it is likely that there will be water shortages this summer. Capping carbon emissions, as proposed in HB 3470, is an important contribution Oregon can make toward limiting future climate risks, including from drought and wildfires. Read More

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High and Dry: Reservoir Levels Tell Only Half the Story, Leaving California Dry as Drought Continues

You’ve probably heard about the California drought by now. If you live in California, it’s hard to hear about anything else. Unfortunately, the drought may be even worse than we realize, because the way we often measure water supply doesn’t consider future water availability. By relying on measurements of current reservoir levels, agencies in charge of water distribution are missing an important part of the water supply picture, leaving their customers vulnerable to longer and more severe droughts.

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A Dam Waste: Outdated Reservoir Rules Dump Water During Drought

Last year, California’s drought task force toured the parched state, visiting sites impacted by the record dry conditions. At Lake Mendocino, a reservoir located in the northern part of the state, they saw bathtub rings and beached docks, evidence of drastically reduced water levels. Therefore, it should be surprising that billions of gallons of water were released from the reservoir during the drought to comply with outdated flood control rules. Read More

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Death, Taxes, and the California Drought

Some say the only things you can count on are death and taxes, but in California there’s something else: drought. No one knows how long the current drought will last or when the next drought will be, but we can be sure that droughts will continue to cycle through in California. Unfortunately, many of our water management systems haven’t been built with this basic fact in mind and aren’t being operated to deal with longer or more severe droughts in the future. Read More

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Confronting the Climate Impacts to Rocky Mountain Forests: From the Statistical to the Visceral

I was in Colorado a short time ago to release “Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk,” our latest report on the regional impacts of climate change. The report focuses on how climate change has amplified the effects of tree-killing insects, wildfires, and stress from heat and drought — what we called a “triple assault” — on forests. But my work on the report didn’t prepare me for the scene that confronted me on the ground.  Read More

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Connecting the Dots: Drought, Climate Change, and Groundwater Regulation

UCS California Climate Scientist Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith provides this guest blog that celebrates today’s signing of historic California legislation to require regulation of groundwater, and offers some thoughts about the need for climate-resilient water management going forward.

Although California is known as a leader when it comes to climate change, its approach to groundwater has been more reminiscent of the Wild West. Groundwater provides around 60 percent of the state’s water supply in dry years, but it has remained largely unregulated since the Gold Rush era. Today, California took a major leap forward into the 21st century as Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills into law aimed at protecting groundwater for current and future generations. Read More

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Severe Texas Drought Exposed in “Years of Living Dangerously”

Don Cheadle talks with a displaced meat-packing plant worker, Nelly Montez, about the punishing multi-year drought in Texas that drastically reduced the cattle herd in the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, which aired April 13 and can be viewed online. A USDA spreadsheet on cattle losses, or a map of the most severe period during the recent drought in Texas, do not do justice in conveying the stories of people demonstrating courage in the face of mighty external forces. This episode has several surprising stories that I will not soon forget.

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Which Electricity Source Will Best Weather the Drought in California?

The late-March storms in California gave the Sierra snowpack a belated boost, but the state is still bracing for dry times ahead. This was confirmed by the Department of Water Resource’s April 1 snow survey, one of the closest watched of the year because it marks the expected end of the wet season. Read More

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Early Wildfire Season in New Mexico Starts as U.S. Considers New Funding Sources to Fight Extreme Wildfires

I experienced very dry conditions in the mountains of northern New Mexico a few weeks back. I spoke with someone who travels to Taos nearly every winter and this was the least snow he could remember. The fire risk sign said “low” in the surrounding forests, but if more snow did not come soon I suspected those signs would start nudging to the yellow and red colors that warn of fire risk. Unfortunately, fires have already erupted in New Mexico this February. Some officials say that if 2014 continues to be the sixth year in a row with drier-than-average conditions on New Mexico’s Rio Grande, this would be the longest dry stretch since before the Rio Grande river gauges existed. Read More

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