This was no April Fool's Joke.
Photo by: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Frank Gehrke, left, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, and Gov. Jerry Brown walk across a dry meadow that is usually covered in several inches of snow as conducts the snow survey, near Echo Summit, Calif., Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Gehrke said this was the first time since he has been conducting the survey that he found no snow at this location at this time of the year. (AP Story)
After witnessing the snowless landscape, Brown announced his executive order that calls for a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use and a requirement that new homes feature water-efficient irrigation if the builder plans to use potable water for landscaping. He also called for 50 million square feet of lawns to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping and required campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to cut back on water. (InsideClimate News)
Governor Brown had to defend his executive order because it only applies to urban areas while farming interests use up to 80% of the available water.
Martha Raddatz, host of ABC's “This Week” public affairs program, asked Brown why the order doesn't extend to California farmers, who consume 80 percent of the state's water supply but make up less than 2 percent of the state's economy. Brown said farmers aren't using water frivolously on their lawns or taking long showers.
“They're providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world,” he said.
Brown said that before the cutbacks, some California farmers had already been denied irrigation water from federal surface supplies, forcing them to leave hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted. Many vulnerable farm laborers are without work, he said. Farmers who don't have access to surface water have increased the amount of water pumped from limited groundwater supplies.
Just for fun let's look at some graphics comparing urban water users with agriculture interests.
Yes that right, 4.9 gallons of water for just one walnut, but almonds are the overall winner in the nut water usage battle.
Let's take a look at another graphic. People talk about racial inequality and income inequality but how about water inequality?
A 25% water reduction for rich people will still leave them with 211 gallons per day. Poor people will have just 49 gallons per day. There's something wrong with that picture. There's also the question of people and companies who reduced their usage during Governor Brown's non-mandatory water reduction orders earlier this year.
The Riverside Highland Water Company, located in the city of Grand Terrace, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, guzzled 490.5 gallons of water per person per day in November 2014, according to the SWRCB. That was an increase of about two gallons per day year-over-year, despite Brown’s call to conserve.
Compare that with the same time in Santa Cruz, where people use about 40 gallons of water per day, a place widely recognized by experts as having some of the strictest water controls in the state. For example, in Santa Cruz residents can attend “water school” if they are given fines, much like “traffic school” for speeders.
While the snowpack is nonexistent the groundwater crisis plows forward.
In some places, water tables have dropped 50 feet or more in just a few years. With less underground water to buoy it, the land surface is sinking as much as a foot a year in spots, causing roads to buckle and bridges to crack. Shallow wells have run dry, depriving several poor communities of water.
Scientists say some of the underground water-storing formations so critical to California’s future — typically, saturated layers of sand or clay — are being permanently damaged by the excess pumping, and will never again store as much water as farmers are pulling out.
Just think of this post as an extension of my, Is California Doomed?, article written not too long ago.
As for April Fool's Joke, I'm not a fan but there were at least two that I enjoyed.
One was a post with the title, Exotic animals deployed as Delta “weed whackers”.
Visitors to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are doing double takes lately as they encounter some newly introduced “biological controls” to keep a fast-spreading waterweed from damaging boat propellers and choking off waterways.
Working with state water officials, UC Davis scientists last month released a herd or “bloat” of hippopotamuses from Botswana to chow down on vast mats of water hyacinth that also threaten to clog the intake to the California Aqueduct near Stockton.
Elsewhere in the Delta, the researchers also planted hyacinth-loving manatees imported from Florida and giant guinea pig-like rodents from Brazil called capybaras.
The menagerie of radio-tagged herbivores is part of a yearlong experiment in more natural and, some say, more effective, controls for curbing the menacing growth of non-native aquatic weeds in the Delta.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard
The other was this Eagle Optics video called Dump in a Bag. Birders have known that public trash dumps attract some interesting birds. You can how create your own. Enjoy!