Water and Power: The Sierra Nevada’s historic low

This newsletter from LA Times looks at the different aspects of California’s drought.

NEWS AND POLICY

Historic low: The snowpack level in the Sierra Nevada may be at its lowest point in 500 years. The finding is according to a piece in the journal Nature Climate Change, and it demonstrates just how severe California’s water shortage is. “We were expecting that 2015 would be extreme, but not like this,” said senior study author Valerie Trouet, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona.

Fire damage: The Valley fire continues to rage across Northern California, consuming hundreds of homes in its path and prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents. Trees and brush dried out by the drought provided the fuel for the fire, which was stoked by high temperatures. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake, Napa, Amador and Calaveras counties as  thousands of firefighters tried to contain the blaze.

Drought’s poll numbers: In a new poll, Californians say the drought has not substantially affected their day-to-day lives, even as they are conserving a considerable amount of water. There’s support for projects that would boost the state’s water supply, like recycling water and capturing storm runoff, but respondents said they don’t want to see environmental regulations rolled back in the process. “Voters are looking for all of the above solutions as long as all of the above solutions do not raise costs for them personally,” said Republican pollster David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint.

 

ON THE GROUND

Lost students: Children in the Central Valley are particularly hard hit by the state drought. Many of their parents rely on the land for work, so they’ve seen their income drop as farms cut back on irrigation. That means some children are constantly on the move. Others lack access to showers and clean clothes. “As agriculture goes, that’s how the rest of the valley would go,” said Robert Hudson, the Alpaugh schools superintendent.

PR makeover: It’s time to harvest almonds, the crop that for some time was the “bad boy” of the drought for the amount of water it takes to make one small nut. Columnist Robin Abcarian joined farmers in Firebaugh to see how they turned around the almond PR game.“Almonds aren’t giant, water-hogging things. They are a good crop, and good food,” said one nut farmer.

 

OFFBEAT

Thirsty critters: The drought is getting so bad that even insects, particularly ants, are on the hunt for water. As Californians cut back on watering their lawns, ants have taken to looking for water sources inside homes. “We’ve seen trails, two-inch trails all through the whole house,” said one exterminator.

Still thirsty: The California Water Co. is the brainchild of artist Chris Onesto, who felt the state’s residents weren’t taking the drought seriously enough. The bottled water company includes products, billboards and print ads. Alas, it has very little water.

 

BIG IDEAS

“There aren’t very many fires in California’s history that have done that. I don’t know if there really is a precedent for it. This fire sort of broke the rules even relative to this incredible season that’s already occurred.”

— Daniel Swain, climate scientist at Stanford University, on the spread of the Valley fire in Northern California.

 

“Climate change is much bigger than partisan politics.”

Gov. Jerry Brown in a letter to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of a United Nations’ report on climate change.

DAILY TIP

A guide to saving water in every room of your house. In the kitchen, choose baking over boiling. And if you drop an ice cube on the floor, feed it to a thirsty plant.

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