Sometimes I read things that just fly in the face of logic. When you look at sites like the U.S. Drought Monitor you get images like this.

When you read stories like this one titled, “Lake Mead, Nation’s Largest Reservoir, To Reach Record Low This Week” you get the impression that water is a scarce resource.

“The last time Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, reached maximum capacity was 1983. This week the lake, located along the Colorado River near Las Vegas, Nevada, is expected to reach a new milestone — its lowest point ever…Nearby Las Vegas gets 90 percent of its water from the lake. With one of the city’s two intake pipes at risk of being exposed, the city is hard at work drilling an expensive three-mile-long tunnel to access deeper reserves…The dropping water levels, at up to two feet per month, are not only impacting recreation and water supply for millions, including California’s already parched agricultural industry, but also putting hydropower in jeopardy. With less pressure as the water enters turbines that run the electricity generators, the current capacity is about 1,592 MW — down from the 2,074 MW that’s achievable. This could drop to about 1,120 MW by May 2016 if predictions hold…A 2007 shortage-sharing agreement sets three elevations for which water restrictions will be imposed on the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. The first shortage level, 1,075 feet, will likely come into effect in the next year or two. It would require a total water use cut of 4.4 percent, with Arizona taking an 11 percent cut, Nevada a four percent cut, New Mexico 3.3 percent and California remaining the same.”


BUT then you read stories like this one titled, “Chevron Admits The Truth: Oil Shale Will Use Huge Amounts Of Western Water”.

“Chevron USA, in legal filings in a case brought by the conservation group Western Resource Advocates, has admitted that to meet a goal of developing a half million barrels of oil from sedimentary rock in northwest Colorado it would need 120,000 acre feet of water a year. That’s enough to meet the needs of 1 million people per year…Chevron and Western Resource Advocates reached a settlement agreement and filed it last week with the Colorado water court. Under the agreement Chevron is allowed to keep its water rights for six years and then must go back to court to keep them beyond that period. It also agreed to provide Western Resource Advocates with five documents that detail how much water it would need for oil shale development and how the water would be used…“Now the debate for decision makers is whether allowing oil shale development to use enormous quantities of water in a strained Colorado River Basin is acceptable.”

One of those documents can be found here. It needs to be said that the Chevron USA’s document is just for one well. 

Here in California the fracking war continues.

Clean Water Action’s website states:

Fracking Threatens California’s Water Supply

Fracking poses a serious threat to California’s water supply and quality. It is an extremely water intensive practice, using hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of water to frack a single well.

Fracking has an especially high impact on water resources because most contaminated wastewater from fracking is removed from the water cycle. However, companies like Venoco and Occidental have plans to significantly ramp up fracking in California to make the California the largest source of on-shore oil production in the country in the next 10 years. With 35 million people and the largest agricultural industry in the U.S., there is simply not enough water to accommodate such high levels of water usage for oil and gas drilling in California.
The Central Valley, where the majority of fracking is taking place, is already under major pressure from contaminated drinking water sources.
Nitrate contamination, for example, from agriculture is a major threat to many communities’ drinking water sources. According to a recent UC Davis report, over 2 million Californians may not have access to a reliable source of safe drinking water, as groundwater contamination is a major problem throughout the state. Any increase in groundwater contamination is unacceptable and will only put more pressure on California’s shrinking water resources.


So why don’t we have a moratorium on fracking here in California? The answer is undoubtedly MONEY.




The weather report said there was an 80% chance of rain last night from 10PM Monday night to 10AM Tuesday morning. That was great news, I of course wasn’t planning to bird during those hours and I had no drives schedule this morning. I got up on the roof of my home and raked off leafs and cleaned out the gutters. I waited for the sound of drops hitting the roof or that smell you get when that first rain comes. Woke up this morning–NOT ONE DROP–the 20% won.


A couple of California stories are in order.

Officials Search for Plan as California Reservoirs Drop Below Half Capacity.

 You can find this article at this link.

A Sierra Nevada reservoir.
Photo by: Shutterstock: Katarish

“California is known for its massive water infrastructure in which northern reservoirs, which fill up from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, supply the populous southern and coastal regions of the state. However going into a third year of dry winter conditions, many of these northern man-made oases are at precariously low levels, hovering between one-third and one-half capacity, far less than the average for October.”

California Headed For Driest Year On Record

“With less than two months to go in 2013, California is looking at its driest year on record. San Francisco, used as the benchmark because it has the longest consecutive rainfall in the state, received no rain in October and only 3.95 inches of precipitation since January. This is the lowest amount since record keeping began 164 years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.” A link to this story can be found here

Here’s a picture of the current California drought conditions as of November 5th.


State of Emergency for San Francisco

Just last week I wrote about California and Climate Change. In that post it was noted that in California, “Wildfires: The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950. The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period”.

 Since that post the Governor of California has declared a State of Emergency for the City and County of San Francisco. San Francisco is not on fire. In fact the fire that is threatening the City is 150 miles away. It’s called the Rim Fire and it has spread to Yosemite National Park and has burned almost 200 square miles. A NPR article states, “Bob Hensley, reporting for NPR, says that in issuing the state of emergency for the city of San Francisco and San Francisco County late Friday, Brown indicated the wildfire has damaged the electrical infrastructure that provides power to the Bay Area 150 miles to the west.

Brown said Bay Area utility officials have had to shut down transmission lines and that so far, the city has been able to keep the power on, even though further disruptions could change that.

He said the city’s water supply could also be affected by the fire.

The Associated Press says San Francisco gets 85 percent of its water from the Yosemite-area Hetch Hetchy reservoir that is about 4 miles from the fire.”

Apparently the danger to the water supply is because two of three power stations have been shutdown.

So, 150 miles to the west you have threatened power outages and 150 miles to the north you have this.




“Hazy smoke from a wildfire more than 150 miles away near Yosemite National Park descended Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, on Reno and the downtown casino district. Washoe County Health District officials issued an air quality alert because the Air Quality Index worsened to the unhealthy zone for sensitive groups, including the elderly and young children. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)”

Update to this post is here

Another update as of Sunday evening is titled, ” Yosemite fire is ‘highest priority’ in nation” is in USA Today.


California and Climate Change

Since I live in California, several headlines have caught my eye recently, “In California, Climate Change Is ‘Real, And It’s Already Here’” and “Global warming already having dramatic impacts in California, new report says“.

The new report is called, “Indicators of Climate Change in California and was just published (August 2013) by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). They’ve updated the 2009 report.

Key findings of the report per it’s press release are:

”  Temperatures: The state’s high, low and average temperatures are all rising, and extreme heat events also have increased in duration and frequency. The rate of warming has accelerated since the mid-1970s, and night time (minimum) temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as maximum (daytime) temperatures.

  Wildfires: The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950. The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period.

  Water: Spring snowmelt runoff has decreased, indicating warmer winter temperatures and more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. Earlier and decreased runoff can reduce water supplies, even when overall rainfall remains the same. This trend could mean less water available for agriculture, the environment and a growing population.

  Coast and Ocean: A number of indicators reflect physical and biological changes in the ocean, impacting a range of marine species, including sea lions, seabirds and salmon. And data for Monterey Bay shows increased carbon dioxide levels in coastal waters, which can harm shell-forming organisms and have impacts throughout the marine food chain.

  Species Migration: Certain plants and animals have responded to habitat changes influenced by warming. For example, conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada have been moving upslope and certain small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared to the early 1900s.”

California is one of the first states in the nation to compile its own set of indicators characterizing the multiple facets of climate change. While most reports on climate change present future scenarios or projections, this report provides a retrospective account of impacts from climate change that have already occurred.”

Download the “Report Summary” for a clear picture of what’s happening in California.






The graphic above is the current drought conditions for California. As you can see, there is no place in the state that is not experiencing some problem and most of the state is “severe” or higher.


CAL FIRE – Fire Season 2013

“With one of the driest winters on record, California’s 2013 fire season has resulted in a very active season. In May, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the year’s last snow survey, which showed the snowpack at only 17 percent of normal. The lack of winter rains has resulted in dry conditions across the state leading to a number of unseasonably large wildfires early in the year and a continued trend of above normal fire activity.”


In my birding along the Mendocino Coast I’ve noticed that several waterways that hit the ocean have decreased flows or have dried up. They include Inglenook, Fenn, and Hare Creeks. The Navarro River is landlocked. The Noyo River is experiencing decreased flows which is reflected in this call to conserve water by the City of Fort Bragg’s City Manager:

“Please Conserve Water. Last winter’s paltry rainfall is taking its toll on the City’s water sources. Since late July, the City has been on a “restricted pumping regimen” at its Noyo River water diversion. Once flows in the river drop below 3 cubic feet per second, the City only diverts water from the river when the tides are above 2 feet in height. At this time, we are relying heavily on our two other water sources (Newman Gulch and Waterfall Gulch) and flows are continuing to decline across the board. The City is hoping to avoid declaration of a water emergency and imposition of mandatory conservation measures. We request that all businesses and residents take immediate voluntary actions to reduce water consumption. Conservation measures include: reducing landscape irrigation; refraining from washing sidewalks, driveways and buildings; using shut-off mechanisms on hoses; only serving water to restaurant patrons upon request; etc.”

The Community of Mendocino is in a “stage two” water conservation effort which requests a 15% reduction in normal water use. 
Since I’ve only lived here for eight years I can’t say how common this is but I don’t like the trend.
Good news for California. The Sierra Club just publish their list of the “Ten Coolest Schools”. The University of Connecticut took first place but California had four of the top ten.
 “Four of the schools in the top 10 are in California: the University of California, Irvine, in third place, the University of California, Davis, in fourth, Stanford University at No. 7 and the University of California, Santa Barbara, at No. 10.
The University of California campuses traditionally fare well in the rankings, Andrews said, noting that last year, UC Davis took first place. The system has a sustainability initiative, she said.

“It’s also just being in California,” Andrews said. “The students who go there and the faculty members that go there and the culture that surrounds it is all about sustainability, in a way that you don’t see as much in other states.”

UC Irvine has installed enough solar panels on campus to generate power equivalent to running 500 homes for a year, she said. Some of those are part of a research project for engineering students examining the impact of renewable power on the grid, said Richard Demerjian, director of environmental planning and sustainability. There also are photovoltaics in a parking lot that are used in part to recharge electric vehicles, and there is battery storage, he said.

In addition, the school has a 19-megawatt natural gas cogeneration facility that uses what would be waste heat and turns it into electricity or heat for buildings. Since 2009, UC Irvine has saved 20 million kilowatts of electricity each year, Andrews said.

Every new building has to be certified at least Silver under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for energy efficiency. Demerjian said that there are eight LEED Gold and nine LEED Platinum buildings. The school also encourages students to participate in meatless Mondays.

It comes in part out of a drive by students to have the school president’s office adopt far-reaching green goals back in 2005, Demerjian said. Those were updated in 2007.

UC Davis won kudos for its focus on green agriculture that uses less water, Andrews said. It also has housing for faculty and students that uses zero net energy.

Stanford University has one of the most plentiful offerings of classes with an ecological focus, with at least 700 taught by 130 professors and spanning 40 departments, Andrews said. In addition, there are at least 36 student clubs with green themes.

UC Santa Barbara has parking lots crammed full of bicycles, as 94 percent of students take transportation other than cars, Andrews said. Nearly half of academic departments offer classes with a sustainability focus, she said. And the school diverts three-fourths of waste to recycling or compost, one of the highest levels achieved among colleges.” 

The above quotes are taken from Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter for ClimateWire.

Other good news is that, “The average Californian uses about 33 percent less electricity at home than the average American in the rest of the country.” You can read the why that is here.

Another strange story is that the Redwoods along the California Coast are growing faster. Not sure why.

This has gotten too long so I’ll end it here. But you can see that California and climate change are paired together.