FIRE

On July 31, 2015, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency because of the wildfires burning in the state. I’ve decided to post that proclamation in full because it sums up the wildfire situation well. This is Governor Brown’s second state of emergency proclamation this year.

PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS since June 17, 2015, a series of wildfires has started in the Counties of Butte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Solano, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yolo. These fires have burned thousands of acres of land and continue to burn; and

WHEREAS these fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten hundreds of homes, necessitating the evacuation of residents; and

WHEREAS the fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads; and

WHEREAS on January 17, 2014, I declared a State of Emergency based on the extreme drought that has now persisted in the State for four years; and

WHEREAS the drought conditions have increased the State’s risk of wildfires, caused millions of trees to die, and increased the severity and spread of the fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS extreme weather conditions, lightning storms, and high temperatures have increased the risk and severity of fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS as a result of the numerous fires burning throughout the State, combined with the drought conditions, California’s air quality has significantly deteriorated and impacted public health; and

WHEREAS Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants have been requested and approved for the Wragg Fire burning in the Counties of Napa, Solano, and Yolo and for the North Fire burning in the County of San Bernardino; and

WHEREAS by virtue of the number of fires burning simultaneously, the State’s resources have been significantly committed such that the State will seek the assistance and resources of other states, as necessary, pursuant to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Public Law 104-321, and sections 179 through 179.9 of the California Government Code; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of these wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exists in California due to these wildfires.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to the wildfires burning throughout the State.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. All agencies of the state government shall utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan. Also, all citizens are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.

2. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 (mobilization in case of catastrophic fires) to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 31st day of July 2015.

__________________________

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

Governor of California

ATTEST:

__________________________

ALEX PADILLA

Secretary of State

The current wildfire map of California can change rapidly. This is the latest.

The statistics for the current year are telling.

Wildfires are up over 1,200 compared to last year and over 1,300 compared to the five year average. The fact that total acreage is down might be due to increased personnel and planning for an early start of the fire season and it just might be no longer true since the Rocky Fire in Lake County, one county west of Mendocino County, has exploded to over 46,000 acres. We have a long ways to go before fire season is over if it ever is.

California’s wildfire season typically peaks in the summer and into the early fall, with the most intense fires occurring in late September and October. However, fire experts say that since 2000, the number of days considered vulnerable to fire outbreaks has been growing. Today, California’s fire season is about 70 days longer compared to 40 years ago, Weather.com says. More than half of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred in the past 15 years.

But California isn’t the only state that’s in bad shape.

The States of Washington and Oregon are also having a bad time.

The flames sent a terrifying message: Normally soggy Washington — nicknamed the Evergreen State for good reason and home to the wettest town in the Lower 48 — has never been hotter or drier at this point in the year, officials say, and the fire season has never begun so early or so fiercely.

“It’s more reminiscent of Southern California and the brush fires fed by the Santa Ana winds,” said Peter Goldmark, head of the state Department of Natural Resources. “Now it’s up here in the state of Washington, where this kind of behavior is unseen. It’s heralding a radical change in the kinds of fires we’re going to see.”

And what does happen when a rainforest burns?

The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden.

The old-growth rainforest that stretches across the western valleys of the Olympic National Park is its crown jewel. As UNESCO wrote in recognizing the park as a World Heritage Site, it includes “the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.” In those river valleys, annual rainfall is measured not in inches but in feet, and it’s the wettest place in the continental United States. There you will find living giants: a Sitka spruce more than 1,000 years old; Douglas fir more than 300 feet tall; mountain hemlock at 150 feet; yellow cedars that are nearly 12 feet in diameter; and a western red cedar whose circumference is more than 60 feet.

For firefighters, combating such a blaze in an old-growth rainforest with steep hills is, at best, an impossibly dangerous business. Large trees are “falling down regularly,” firefighter Dave Felsen told the Seattle Times. “You can hear cracking and you try to move, but it’s so thick in there that there is no escape route if something is coming at you.”

But it is Alaska where things are grim.

Every day they update the numbers. And every day, the number of acres burned in Alaska seems to leap higher yet again.

As of Monday, it is at 4,447,182.2 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center — a total that puts the 2015 wildfire season in sixth place overall among worst seasons on record. It’s very likely to move into fifth place by Tuesday — and it’s still just mid-July. There is a long way to go.

According to the Center, 2015 is now well ahead of the rate of burn seen in the worst year ever, 2004, when 6,590,140 acres burned in 701 fires. “Fire acreage totals are more than 14 days ahead of 2004,” the agency notes. In other words, and although the situation could still change, we may be watching the unfolding of the worst year ever recorded.

Let’s not leave Canada out of this post.

Wildfire danger throughout Western Canada is “very high,” according to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS), with the majority of fire activity taking place in three provinces: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. “Nationally,” the CWFIS’ most recent report reads, “fire activity has increased dramatically and is now well above average for this time of year.”

According to Mashable, more than 13,000 people in the province of Saskatchewan have been evacuated because of the fires, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in history for the relatively underpopulated province. The province’s premier, Brad Wall, told CBC News that the fires are “unprecedented” for the region, noting that the area currently burning is about 10 times the average. As of Monday, there were 112 fires burning across the province.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wildfires up north are causing a “tremendous amount of smoke,” and it hasn’t stopped at the border: smoke from Canada’s wildfires has been seen across Midwest and as far south as North Carolina, bringing a haze to the sky and turning sunsets fiery red. But the smoke also brings dangerous fine particles, which can diminish air quality and, in high concentrations, pose a public health threat.

Smoke drifting south from wildfires burning in Canada clouds the skyline last week in Denver.

David Zalubowski/AP

Smoke conditions on June 10, 2015.

A hazy, polluted Minneapolis skyline from Ridgeway Parkway Park on Monday. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

Tiny particles in smoke from wildfires may increase the danger of acute heart problems, including cardiac arrest and ischemic heart disease, especially among vulnerable people, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The findings are especially worrisome as heavy smoke generated from wildfires in Alaska and Canada continues to drift southward. Smoke already has made its way down into the northern United States, including Montana, the Central Plains, the Upper Mississippi Valley, and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“During bushfires there is widespread and huge quantities of smoke, and people are exposed,” said Anjali Haikerwal, study author and a doctoral candidate at the school of public health and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne. “These particulates can be easily inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular health events.”

Then there is that other problem! What does happens when wildfire meets permafrost in Alaska and Canada?

As Sam Harrel, spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service, puts it in understated terms, “We are on a track for a lot of acres this year.” But the real problem is that the fires could accelerate the melting of permafrost, a layer of ground that’s never supposed to get above freezing. And permafrost is one of Earth’s great storehouses of carbon. Release it, and you speed up climate change.

What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.

It’s also a particularly bad time for the permafrost to lose insulation. Last year was Alaska’s hottest ever recorded. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as other states. Alaskans are already worried about how melting permafrost will damage the state’s transportation infrastructure—permafrost is supposed to be permanent, and northerners build roads on it. It’s also a unique habitat for animals and plants.

Losing permafrost wouldn’t just affect Alaskans and Canadians, though. All the permafrost in the world currently stores an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of carbon, twice the amount in the atmosphere. What happens if all that carbon gets released? “We don’t know the answer to that,” says Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Arctic Network.

 

Globel Fire Maps

On Earth, something is always burning: wildfires started by lightning or people, controlled agricultural fires, or fossil fuels. When anything made out of carbon — whether it’s vegetation, gasoline, or coal — burns completely, the only end products are carbon dioxide and water vapor. But in most situations, burning is not complete, and fires or burning fossil fuels produce a mixture of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide.

That’s a lot of fire going on people. Think we can handle it?

I have purposely left out all of the dramatic fire pictures and the stories of lost property and death that accompany most fire related stories. This is just an unemotional post that shows that the planet is on fire.

 

When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms.

Sheldon Whitehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Was No April Fool’s Joke

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Care to Join the Debate–Is California Doomed?

Some would say that parts of California were doomed already with predictions that the Pacific Ocean would swallow it or turn it into offshore islands. It would appear that this isn’t going to happen. However, Los Angeles and San Francisco will one day be adjacent to one another!

The headlines recently are of a different nature.

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

Jay Famiglietti a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine wrote that headline in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

This series of satellite images reflects the huge loss of groundwater in California. (UC Irvine, NASA)

There are many issues in California compounding this problem. One of them is that water rights given out by the state are five times the amount of water available.

According to a new study, the water rights given out by California amount to five times the amount of surface water the state’s ecosystem can actually provide.

The analysis, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that water rights issued since 1914 add up to 370 million acre-feet of water annually, while the surface water that actually flows through the state adds up to just 70 million acre-feet in a good year for precipitation. An acre-foot of water is roughly enough to supply two households for one year, and 300 million acre-feet of water is enough to fill Lake Tahoe two-and-a-half times over. The study arrived at its numbers by crunching public data from the State Water Resources Control Board, the state agency that administers the water rights.

Another problem is that California has allowed oil companies to inject chemical-laden wastewater into drinkable water sources underground.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a bombshell story showing that California regulators gave oil companies permission to inject chemical-laden wastewater into drinkable water sources underground.

The revelation comes as California enters another month of its epic, four-year drought, which has left some communities pumping out so much groundwater that the land is literally sinking. The state saw almost no rain in January, normally the wettest month of the year.

Of course the lack a snow pack and rain is the most obvious component of the problem. The latest report (3/3/15) from the California Department of Water Resources state:

Today’s manual survey by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) at the Phillips snow course in the mountains 90 miles east of Sacramento found 0.9 inches of water content in the snow, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Electronic readings by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today indicate the water content of the northern Sierra snowpack is 4.4 inches, 16 percent of average for the date. The central and southern Sierra readings were 5.5 inches (20 percent of average) and 5 inches (22 percent) respectively.

This picture was taken earlier in the year. It was in a National Geographic article about this subject.

But the Golden State is in a league all its own. A virtually rain-free January comes after the state had the third driest “water year” (which ends September 30) on record. Today, nearly 40 percent of the state is enduring an “exceptional” drought—the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most extreme rating.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducts the second snow survey of the season at Echo Summit. The survey showed the snowpack to be 12 percent of normal for this site at this time of year. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICH PEDRONCELLI, AP

Another unknown component at this time will be our fire season. If the season is like the last few years it will be an enormous drain on our water resources. So far it doesn’t look good. This year is already well above previous years in acres burned.


The state’s Water Resources Control Board has just issued new restrictions state wide.

Water regulators in California voted on Tuesday to outlaw watering the lawn within 48 hours of a rainstorm, the latest effort to spur Californians to conserve as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

Facing a dramatic slowdown in voluntary conservation efforts by property owners, the state Water Resources Control Board also tightened conservation rules in other ways, prohibiting water from being served in restaurants unless customers request it, and forbidding lawn-watering more than twice a week.

Early last year Governor Brown issued, A PROCLAMATION OF A CONTINUED STATE OF EMERGENCY, urging all California residents and businesses to reduce their water usage by 20%. How are we doing? Is it enough?

According to new data released earlier this week, Californians cut water use 8.8 percent statewide at homes and businesses in January compared with January 2013, the baseline year used by state water officials.

That’s a far cry from the 20 percent conservation target that Gov. Jerry Brown asked state residents to hit last year. And it’s a significant drop-off from the 22 percent drop that Californians recorded in December compared with December 2013.

The North Coast region came closest to Brown’s goal with a 17.2 percent reduction in January 2015 compared with January 2013. In Humboldt County, the McKinleyville Community Services District reigned as the top conserver at an 14.3 percent year-to-year reduction with and 11.7 percent cut by Humboldt County Community Services District followed closely by Arcata at an 11.5 percent cut.

So what can we expect from all this new regulation? How about the water police?

City of Sacramento water conservation official Steven Upton walks back to his truck after delivering a citation to a home where sprinklers are running on a mandatory ‘no watering’ day, in this August 15, 2014 file photo taken in Sacramento, California. Credit–REUTERS/MAX WHITTAKER/FILES

He heard the scofflaws before he saw their lush green lawns amid the otherwise parched turf. The buzz of a sprinkler system gave them away on a day that the city, desperate to save water amid California’s ongoing drought, had forbidden watering.

“If I can get a good picture – if there’s a lot of water – I’ll cite them,” he said.

Speaking about Sacramento how can big corporations get away with draining ground water while the little homeowner gets a citation?

The city of Sacramento is in the fourth year of a record drought – yet the Nestlé Corporation continues to bottle city water to sell back to the public at a big profit, local activists charge.

The Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento is the target of a major press conference on Tuesday, March 17, by a water coalition that claims the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during the drought.

California’s farmers are screwed which means food prices will continue to rise and unemployment in the farming industry will go up.

Federal officials warned last week that for a second consecutive year irrigation projects were likely to allocate zero water to Central Valley farmers without senior water rights.

“This is an absolutely devastating shock,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director for the Fresno County farm bureau. “Unless things change dramatically in the next six weeks, we expect 2015 to be much worse than last year.”

Crisis is apparent as you drive through the valley. Many fields are fallow – some idled last year, others more recently. The earth is baked hard. Preliminary estimates suggest Fresno may have recorded its warmest-ever February, prolonging what has been dubbed the “time without winter”. Roadside signs warn of the consequences. “No water = no food.” “Food grows where water flows.”

Baked earth at Clarence Freitas’ farm, outside Fresno. Photograph: Rory Carroll/the Guardian

Water is getting to be worth more than gold. Water theft is getting to be common.

Madden is not alone. Water theft has become increasingly common in California as the state suffers through its worst drought on record. There’s no reliable tracking of just how much water has gone missing. But reports of theft rose dramatically in the past year. Officials say a black market set up to peddle water is thriving as wells run dry. And law enforcement is scrambling to respond.

Mendocino County has made catching water thieves a top priority. The sheriff’s office set up a water-theft hotline and investigates every tip. It also puts out patrols to sniff out suspicious activity.

In August, a sheriff’s deputy there followed a trail of water droplets up a dirt road where he discovered a truck outfitted with a water tank. A confession came quickly. The driver had siphoned water from a nearby canal and planned to sell it to the highest bidder.

Let me ask you if sewage is the answer? The link provides a good rundown on California’s water problems. It seems this idea is catching on.

Acknowledging California’s parched new reality, the city of San Diego has embraced a once-toxic idea: turning sewer water into drinking water.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to advance a $2.5billion plan to recycle wastewater, the latest example of how California cities are looking for new supplies amid a severe drought.

Each of the nine council members effusively praised the effort before the vote as a way to make San Diego less dependent on imported water and insulated from drought.

‘We’re at the end of the pipeline,’ said Councilman Scott Sherman. ‘We have a real problem getting water down here.’

Or will desalination be the future.

Will California — like Israel, Saudi Arabia and other arid coastal regions of the world — finally turn to the ocean to quench its thirst? Or will the project finally prove that drinking Pacific seawater is too pricey, too environmentally harmful and too impractical for the Golden State?

“Everybody is watching Carlsbad to see what’s going to happen,” said Peter MacLaggan, vice president of Poseidon Water, the Boston firm building the plant.

“I think it will be a growing trend along the coast,” he said. “The ocean is the one source of water that’s truly drought-proof. And it will always be there.”

To supporters, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a historic engineering marvel. And it is a survivor, having endured six years of government permitting, from the Carlsbad City Council to the California Coastal Commission. Supporters won 14 lawsuits and appeals by environmentalists before finally breaking ground in December 2012.

“They went through seven or eight years of hell to get here,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “But they stuck it out. They got it done. If it succeeds, it will encourage others to try. And if it fails, it will have a chilling effect.”

To critics, the plant is a costly mistake that will use huge amounts of energy and harm fish and other marine life when it sucks in seawater using the intakes from the aging Encina Power Plant next door.

“This is going to be the pig that will try for years to find the right shade of lipstick,” said Marco Gonzalez, an Encinitas attorney who sued on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups to try to stop construction. “This project will show that the water is just too expensive.”

So is California doomed. Only time will tell but it’s getting hot in California and the trend is up.

Also, as climatologist Peter Gleick noted on twitter, “California’s February temperatures blast[ed] through 120-year record. 8 degrees F above 20th [Century] avg.” As this NOAA data shows, last month the Golden State averaged a full 1°F higher than the second-warmest February on record:

Photo by NOAA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contradictions

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.”

CREDIT: AP/ JULIE JACOBSON

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.

 



 

How Dry is it?

The title of the article was, “Drought Now Covers 100% of California“.

“California’s drought has finished its conquest of the state: 100 percent of the land here is now in a drought condition, and 96 percent of it is in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought.

This week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the USDM that 100 percent of California was in moderate to exceptional drought,” writes NOAA’s Richard Heim in a drought monitoring report.

It’s gotten this bad, despite March’s decent rains…And the state’s hydrological conditions might be worse than they look here. Snowpack serves as a natural reservoir, allowing humans to capture the runoff during the long California dry season. If it’s warmer, though, more precipitation falls as rain, instead of snow, eliminating the storage in the mountains.

And that’s what’s happening this year. While precipitation in the northern Sierras is running at 60 percent of normal, the snowpack is sitting at 13 percent of normal in the northern Sierras and 22 percent statewide. It’s melting quickly, too, thanks to hotter than normal temperatures.”

Just this last week we had a series of weak rainstorms come through the area. Thursday I was doing a Virgin Creek SOS Survey and got caught in some rain. I even heard on the TV that a late “winter” blast was going to hit the mountains. But as I write this on a late April “Spring” day temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees higher than normal all along the West Coast of the United States.

This AccuWeather story states, “As an offshore wind continues over California and along much of the West Coast, temperatures will continue to rise through Thursday and will increase the risk of wildfires…In portions of Southern California, gusty winds, known as Santa Anas, will raise the fire danger.

“The combination of very low humidity, heat, sunshine and wind can cause any fire that gets started to spread rapidly through dry brush and potentially into populated areas,” Clark said.

Winds can gust between 40 and 50 mph in canyons aligned in a southwest to northeast fashion into Wednesday night into Thursday.

Northeast winds will carry any smoke from inland fires toward the coast and will tend to push fires to the south and west.

“A fire has broken out in Day Canyon, in the San Bernardino National Forest just north of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Wednesday midday and was spreading rapidly,” Clark said.”

After Dry Winter In California, Preparations Begin For Harsh Wildfire Season“. That’s the headline for this ThinkProgress article.

“And with the latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released on Thursday showing the drought persisting or intensifying throughout the state until August, precipitation figures will continue to trend negatively. One area where figures will grow is wildfires, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is already warning that it will be a long and challenging fire season. And its not like its been easy so far — between January 1 and April 5, Cal Fire responded to approximately 900 wildfires, around triple the average for that period.

With that in mind, Cal Fire hired nearly 100 additional seasonal firefighters to be stationed in the north and middle part of the state starting this week.”

Gov. Jerry Brown ramps up drought action with emergency declaration.” 

 — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a sweeping emergency drought proclamation, cutting red tape for a variety of government functions to help water agencies find new supplies, and to press the public to use water carefully.

“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in a statement. “The driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse.”

California’s draught is already causing tensions to rise between various interests here in the state. It is also causing price increases for many commodities raised or grown in the Central Valley. This New York Times article outlines many of these issues.

“Heading into the third year of a prolonged drought, the Allens are among the many California farmers forced to make dire choices that could leave as much as 800,000 acres, or about 7 percent of the state’s cropland, fallow. While some think that estimate may be inflated so early in the planting season, the consensus is that drier and drier seasons are on the horizon.

A recent report on prospective planting from the federal Department of Agriculture forecast a 20 percent decline in California’s rice crop and a 35 percent decline in cotton this year from last year’s crop.”

“Anywhere between one-third and one-half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, meaning Americans are facing higher prices on melons, broccoli, baby greens, almonds and other popular crops.

Last year, when growers struggled with low water allocations from the state’s two largest water systems, the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, vegetable prices were 3 percent higher and fruits cost 2 percent more, according to the agricultural department. It expects similar price increases this year.”

Drought Is Driving Beef Prices To All-New Highs.” That’s the subject of this ThinkProgress article.

“Years of sometimes record-setting dry spells have punished the western and southern United States recently, cutting down crops like hay and corn that serve as cattle feed. That’s driven up the costs of raising and maintaining cattle herds, so ranchers spent the last few years selling off and slaughtering more cows than usual in order to keep their finances stable.”

The practical results of this generates headlines like, “Drought Causes Chipotle To Increase Its Steak Prices.”  This might actually be a good thing. Reduced amounts of cattle and the eating of beef will reduce the effects of climate change. 

Is there any sign of “good” news for California and the Southwest? This article titled, “Four Bad Things We Learned About The Epic California Drought This Week“, ended with this statement, “The only bright spot in recent news is that we still appear headed towards an El Niño, which “may suggest wet conditions in California later this year.” Of course, an El Niño typically means dangerously extreme weather in other parts of the world — especially if it turns out to be a super El Niño as some forecast.”

I plan to discuss El Niños in a later post I will let you decide if an El Niño event will be a good thing.

El Niños–how do you put that wavy thing over the “n” on an Ipad?

Edited: Just found this blog by Robert Keiffer called,”Drought & Livestock equals extra feed needed“. Bob is the “Center Superintendent” at Hopland Research & Extension Center here in Mendocino. He’s also one of the long time Mendocino bird record keepers. I just wanted to add a local flavor to this post. I birded the Hopland REC with Chuck Vaughn last year during my “green” year. You can read about it here.

A Strange Thing Has Happened to my Blog

A strange thing has happened to my blog. This is a screen shot of my blog statistics soon after the New Year.

This is what it looks like just a few minutes ago.

That’s a 412 jump in views in less than two days. Almost all of the increase are views of a post that I did in November titled, “80%–EIGHTY FREAKIN PERCENT“. It was about the current California Drought. I didn’t think much at the time that it was anything special. I’m not totally certain that it’s not some sort of virus or attack on my blog. What it would mean is that when people put “California Drought” into a search engine my blog is at the top of the search results and maybe the title of the post catches their eye. 

“California Drought” is a subject that I’m hearing about in the news more and more since we are into our third year. When I got a sandwich at our local Subway I heard people in line talking about so and so’s pond (well) being dry. I’ve heard that the City of Fort Bragg is going around looking for excessive water use. The community of Mendocino is in a stage 3 water alert. Wild animals are being seen closer to population center looking for water. It even worse in Southern California. The state is warning of reduced water allotments for agriculture use. So it just may be possible that search engines are sending people to my blog.

For anyone looking for information on drought can go to the United States Drought Monitor. Click on the state you want to look at. This is the current map for California.

 

80%–EIGHTY FREAKIN PERCENT

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.