<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Running Dry]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/feature/running-dry http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Tue, 28 Apr 2015 03:29:26 -0700 Tue, 28 Apr 2015 03:29:26 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[QUIZ: Who Can Save Us From the Drought Now?]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 18:08:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-quiz-5-save-california-water-shatner.jpg

You've stopped taking long showers. You're only watering your lawn twice a week. Your car is covered in grime because you think car washes are for water-wasting chumps.

But do you really know it all about California's extreme drought? Test your knowledge here, and let's hope it's deeper than the state's water supply...

Previous Quizzes:
QUIZ: What Do You Know About Drought Cutbacks?

Do You Really Understand California's New Mandatory Water Restrictions?
Your Neighbors Probably Think You Should Be Saving More Water
How Water Smart Are You?
So You Think You Know About California's Drought?

CLICK HERE: Complete coverage of California's drought

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC, Illustration by Heather Navarro
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Project Scientist Explains SMAP Mission]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:22:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_smap_healy_interview_1200x675_434011715814.jpg Eni G. Njoku, PhD, has served as Project Scientist for the SMAP Mission and is supervisor of the Water and Carbon Cycles Group at NASA JPL. Wednesday, he briefed NBC4’s Patrick Healy on the progress of the mission and what its satellite data can tell us about soil moisture levels around the globe.]]> <![CDATA[Water Surplus ]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:52:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_watersurplus.jpg One drought-stricken California town will soon have a water surplus, which could cause problems of its own.]]> <![CDATA["Exceptional" Drought Expands in Sierras]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:48:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/220*120/04-23-2015-drought-monitor-map.jpg

The most severe category of drought expanded during the past week in California's northern Sierra Nevada Mountain range after a winter of little snowfall and record warm temperatures in the region.

Nearly 47 percent of California is under the exceptional drought category, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report. That's a nearly 3-percentage point increase over last week.

The Monitor depicts drought conditions in four categories -- moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. Nearly 94 percent of California falls under the severe category.

Conditions in the northern Sierras reflect California's significantly lower precipitation and the warmest winter in the state's recorded history. In normal precipitation years, the Sierra snowpack melts and runs off into the state's major reservoirs to provide about 30 percent of the state's water needs.

This week's report also shows water levels at Mono Lake near Yosemite National Park reached their lowest levels since 1996. California's lakes and reservoirs have reached historic lows during a fourth consecutive dry year.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California in January 2014 and called on residents to reduce water use by 20 percent. On March 17, the state's water control board announced new restrictions that include limits on outdoor watering and prohibiting restaurants from offering water unless requested by customers.

Faced with worsening conditions, Brown has called for a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use compared with 2013 levels.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor]]>
<![CDATA[Respect the Blob - It May be a Drought Killer]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 08:13:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150422-the-blob-drought-pacific.jpg

The Blob is back – and this one is no joke.

Notwithstanding its silly name, this meteorological phenomenon could herald the impending end of California's devestating drought, according to JPL's Bill Patzert and other respected climate scientists.

The Blob refers to an amorphous mass of water warmer than what surrounds it off the coast of North America. Unusually cold or warm water masses have been linked to climate patterns onshore, notably the wet phenomenon dubbed El Nino, and its dry counterpart, La Nina.

Patzert sees the Blob as a precursor.

The last time it appeared – in 1997 – it was followed within months by one of California's wettest El Nino winters ever. Indeed, satellite data reveal an unusually large mass of warm water in the equatorial Pacific, the trademark of El Nino, is now moving toward the Americas.

If the El Nino continues developing as expected, so-called "pineapple express" storms would be expected to begin arriving next winter.

Till then, California would still need to get through another dry summer. In recent weeks, after the past winter ended with a whimper, Gov. Jerry Brown set a statewide water conservation goal of 25 percent, and California's Water Resources Control Board has set specific reducation targets for individual water districts.

Patzert urged Californians not to abandon conservation measures in expectation of relief nearly a year away.

Even more significantly, other indicators dating back 16 months signal a shift in a longterm pattern that alternates between two phases, one conducive to El Ninos, the other to La Ninas. It's called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and its last shift to warmer and wetter weather in the Southwest coincided with the end of the major drought during the 1970s. There followed a series of wet El Nino winters during the next two decades.

In the late 90s – after the El Nino Winter of '98 – the PDO shifted back to a cool, dry phase for the Southwest, coinciding with an extended period of below average precipitation in this region, culminating in the current drought now in its fourth year.

The PDO shift will be a "drought buster," Patzert predicted.

"Whether it's this year or next, it's coming. This will not be a mega drought," Patzert said, quashing the notion that the type of decades-long drought that geological records indicate can occur every few centuries.

However, climate patterns cannot be expected to replicate exactly what occurred during previous PDO phases, and could be affected by the even longer term pattern of global climate change.

The looming El Nino has implications for the northeast as well, which just endured one of its coldest and snowiest winters on record. El Nino conditions typically result in milder winters in the U.S. northern tier.

Meantime, testing phase is nearly complete for another NASA-JPL project to gather climate-relevant data from space – specifically variations in soil moisture. Because the satellite uses two both active and passive data-gathering technologies, the project has been dubbed SMAP, for Soil Moisture Active Passive. Its instruments measure soil radiation, and from that moisture levels can be calculated.

With instruments calibrated, the project can move into the science phase next month, said Dr. Eni Njoku, a SMAP scientist who focuses on carbon and water cycles.

The data are expected to have far reaching applications, including assisting agricultural planning, flood prediction, and drought monitoring.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Soil Moisture Observatory Sends Back First Images]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:27:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/04-22-2015-smap-PIA18058-1280x1024.jpg

A NASA satellite designed to measure Earth's soil moisture sent back its first global map images this month as part of a mission that could help scientists better predict natural hazards like floods and drought.

The array of bright colors displayed in the images released this week show low soil moisture or lack of vegetation with blue colors. Red colors indicate dense vegetation and higher soil moisture levels, such as those seen in the Amazon and Congo rain forests.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory also acquires data over ocean and sea ice, but uses a different color scale to depict temperature variations and the effects of wind.

The images are part of a test of SMAP's instruments before full operations begin in May. The imagery  comes nearly three months after launch from Vandenberg Air Base northwest of Santa Barbara.

SMAP works by bouncing microwave pulses off Earth, then measuring the strength of those signals. Water in soil responds differently to the microwaves than dry soil, allowing scientists to provide the data visualizations with vibrant colors.

The mission, based at Southern California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will help scientists understand links between Earth's energy and carbon cycles and reduce uncertainties when it comes to weather and climate forecasting, according to a statement from JPL. The data also will help researchers monitor and predict floods and droughts.

Currently, drought maps and flash flood guidance issued by the federal government are based on computer modeling. SMAP will take real-time measurements that can be incorporated into forecasts.

California is in a fourth year of drought with water reservoirs at critically low levels. The governor has proposed state-mandated water-use cutbacks to combat the dry spell.

The mission is designed to take about three years. Scientists are looking forward to the data provided by SMAP and expressed relief that it's working properly. The complex system that deploys instruments includes an arm the unfurls like a lasso.

"It's fabulous, just the fact that everything has deployed and turned on and worked as we thought it would," said project scientist Dr. Eni  G. Njoku. "Now we're seeing the first data, and it looks very good. I think it's unprecedented that an instrument works this well and is so well calibrated."

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC]]>
<![CDATA[New Tiered Water System Tentatively Approved]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 21:32:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lawn-watering-080311.jpg A new tiered water system has been tentatively approved as the drought worsens. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2015.

Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[MAP: California Water Use Tiers]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:39:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-generic-april-13_3.jpg

This map shows how communities are listed in California's nine-tier system that penalizes the state's biggest water users.

Water suppliers are assigned to a tier -- displayed in the circles above -- of water reduction based on three months of summer residential gallons-per-capita-per-day data. The tier listings are part of the state water board's revised drought regulations that cut conservation targets for communities with a history of conservation and slightly increased cuts for communities that have used the most water..

Zoom in on the map to find a water district in Southern California.

Note: The tier designations and other figures displayed on this map are subject to change.

Mobile app users, scroll down to access map on mobile site.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[William Shatner Wants $30B to Save California]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 07:28:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/William+Shatner.jpg

William Shatner plans to launch a $30 billion fundraising campaign to aid in California's drought relief efforts.

The actor, who played Captain James T. Kirk in "Star Trek," announced his intention via a video interview with Yahoo.

“So I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign," he said. "I want $30 billion … to build a pipeline like the Alaska pipeline. Say, from Seattle — a place where there’s a lot of water. There’s too much water. How bad would it be to get a large, 4-foot pipeline, keep it above ground — because if it leaks, you’re irrigating!”

The campaign has not been posted, but a $30 billion goal would boldly go where no Kickstarter effort has gone before as far as fundraising goals.

Watch Shatner detail his idea in the video below:

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Waning Water Supplies Spawn Tidal Wave of Challenges]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 09:18:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-generic-april-13_3.jpg


California’s virtual perma-drought crisis is being called "the new normal" for life going forward in the Golden State.

Scientists think it actually might be the “old normal," given climate and sparse rainfall patterns going back centuries -- to when coastal Southern California, especially, was a barren, semi-arid landscape.

But it seems water conservation alone is far from the only or optimum way to manage the challenges, and that myriad other approaches aren’t quite evolved enough to bring the necessary “bang” for all the bucks that must be spent to stabilize a society begging for hydration.

There have been calls for moratoriums on residential construction, among them.

Many frustrated homeowners who have cut their water dramatically are wondering why they should keep saving when builders keep adding to the population.

Temporary halts to homebuilding construction are already under discussion in a few California communities – and could wind up being taken to court.

Local homebuilders warn that shutting their operations would cause vast, unintended consequences because the area's population-driver is the local birthrate.

"Even if you put a fence around the county and said 'No more building, no more people,' the population is still going to increase,” says Matt Adams, a vice president of the San Diego Building Industry Association. “And we still have to provide homes for our future citizens here in San Diego County."

In a Friday recording session for Sunday’s edition of NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking” program, Adams pointed out that what the industry has been bringing to market cuts water use in half, compared to homes built before 1980.

And, that the less-efficient older housing stock actually needs replacing.

It may be that backyard pools become more of a liability than a selling point.

But whatever trends develop as water gets scarcer, Adams says homebuyers shopping in the current drought cycle might welcome incentives to be part of the solution, rather than the problem – especially when it comes to outdoor irrigation.”

"On the average, 70 percent (of home water use) is in landscaping outside,” Adams said. “There's where the water is going that is not for human consumption."

Water policy consultant Carl Nettleton buys into that logic: "The market comes from people wanting houses that are sustainable, that use water and energy wisely -- because it saves them money and makes them feel good about the future."

Another issue that’s prompted outcries is the fairness of across-the-board cutbacks that don't take into account people's baseline use in recent months in years.

Should those who have managed the largest decreases in their water consumption be given more of a break?

And those who have done the least be obliged to save a much greater percentage -- and pay higher conservation rates?

Could that be addressed through rebates and surcharges linked to different use trends, and customer tiers?

Experts offer cautionary words about potential devils in the details.

"There are lot of cuts being handed down from wholesale water agencies as well as the state,” noted Stephen Heverly, managing director of San Diego-based Equinox Center.

“And some water districts started responding by handing down emergency or drought conservation rates even as early as last July,” Heverly added. “But that impacts water bills."

The relative bargain prices for water being paid by agricultural interests are coming under fire.

“We’ve got to raise the price of water,” argued Milt Burgess, an engineer with four decades’ experience in hydro-delivery systems. “Let the market decide where we grow fruits and vegetables in California … if we can get the price of water up, then the market would make that decision.”

Focus also has intensified on replacing -- as well as reusing -- whatever water that remains available in a thirsty state.

Residents have gotten comfortable with the practice of reclaiming water from sewage for the purpose of irrigation.

But it's taken a longer time for people to accept the production of "potable" drinking water, and using it in showers, sinks, dishwashers.

That's just what modern scientists have managed pull off -- to the point where the finished product is just as safe and savory as the bottled water consumers readily buy.

Surveys now show that the so-called "ick factor" of what used to be dismissed as "toilet to tap" is evaporating, since the reality of a seemingly endless drought is really sinking in.

Potable H20 also is cheaper to produce than desalinated seawater, with fewer environmental downsides.

However, desalination is expected to become more widespread due to the diminishing number pristine lakes, streams and underground aquifers to meet our needs.

Next year, in Carlsbad, the $1.3 billion Poseidon desalination plant is expected to begin full operations, producing about 7 percent of our current consumption level countywide.

A splash in the bucket, so to speak -- but a sorely needed start.

After all, San Diegans daily flush 160 million gallons of bathroom and kitchen wastewater into deep ocean canyons off Point Loma, after so-called "advanced primary" treatment.

Efforts to recycle and re-purify it lag way behind.

Less than 30 million gallons a day are recycled locally for industrial and freeway landscaping irrigation purposes.

A potable water purification plant in Eastgate Mall has been yielding a million gallons of potable water a day, also for irrigation use during still-ongoing testing phases.

Once it’s state-certified to go on line for general use, the output could be cranked up to about 15 million gallons a day by a decade later.

By contrast, potable water production in Orange County, with the benefit of deep underground storage capacity, is trending toward 100 mgd.

Whatever approaches are cobbled together and brought to bear on the crisis, there are no guarantees that legislation and logistics won't lead to litigation involving government agencies, water districts and various private interests.

If so, courtroom battles seem infinitely preferable to the kind of water wars fought here in the "Wild West" days of yesteryear -- with bullets and bloodshed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Schools Drain Leaky Swimming Pools]]> Sat, 18 Apr 2015 11:12:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/184*120/04.17.15-Fullerton-High-Pools-Leak.JPG

A Southern California school district faces tough choices as officials grapple with fixes for two swimming pools that are leaking thousands of gallons of water per day.

Pools built more than 50 years ago at Troy High School in Fullerton and nearby Sunny Hills High School were leaking about 10,000 gallons of water daily. That's enough for about 540 loads of laundry every day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The district recently found out about the Troy High School leak, but learned about the leak at Sunny Hills High School in 2012 and won passage of a bond measure to pay for repairs. The estimated $4 million needed for the work won't be available until next summer.

"We have known about this for some time and we are currently in the process of getting bids to make the repairs on that pool," said Ken Stichter, interim superintendent for the Fullerton Joint Union School District.

With California in a fourth consecutive year of drought that prompted the state to order water-use cutbacks, school officials drained the pools. Both schools' swimming and water polo teams will need to practice elsewhere until repairs are complete.

"Maybe, right now, the swimming coach and the water polo coach and the teammates might be angry, but in the long run, we've got to think about the long run," said Troy High School senior Julie Lim.

More than 98 percent of California is under severe drought, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report. Four dry years, including dismal snowpack levels in the Sierras where springtime runoff provides water for millions of Californians, prompted Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers to call for a 25-percent reduction in water use across the state.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[QUIZ: What Do You Know About Drought Cutbacks?]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:14:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-quiz-3-conserve-water-snowpack-snow-poll-neighbors.jpg

The drought that's plaguing the Golden State is into its fourth year. That's long enough for you to have soaked up plenty of knowledge about the river-shriveling dry spell.

You probably think you know it all about the drought. Well, let's hope your knowledge is deeper than the state's water supply...

Previous Quizzes:
Do You Really Understand California's New Mandatory Water Restrictions?

Your Neighbors Probably Think You Should Be Saving More Water
How Water Smart Are You?
So You Think You Know About California's Drought?

CLICK HERE: Complete coverage of California's drought

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration by Heather Navarro
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA["Serious Situation": Water Board Approves Cutbacks]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 19:37:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP281311805550.jpg

The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies drinking water to nearly 19 million people in Southern California, voted Tuesday and gave the green light for cutbacks that would slash supplies to its member cities and agencies by 15 percent.

The cuts in water allocation to local districts were approved by an MWD committee on Monday and the full board Tuesday. The move marks only the fourth time the MWD has cut back on supplying water.

"(It's a) very serious situation," MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger told NBC4 on Tuesday. "I've been in the water business 20 years, never seen anything like it."

The last time supplies were limited was from July 2009 to April 2011 when the board approved a 10-percent cutback.

The cutbacks will start July 1 and would charge agencies that don't reduce deliveries enough to reach a 15 percent decrease. The board also agreed to revisit the issue in December and evaluate the situation.

"Southern California has led the way in water conservation for more  than 20 years, and now we're asking people to do significantly more," said Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board. "We know it will be difficult, but we're in an unprecedented drought."

As Gov. Jerry Brown mandates a 25 percent cut in water use across the state, the MWD vote cuts deliveries to its 26 member cities and water districts in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

The amount of the cut will be based on each agency's reliance on the MWD, and the district will consider conservation actions already in place.

"We're moving on close to a decade of dry weather," Kightlinger said. "The last four years have set all sorts of records for driest year ever, hottest year ever. It's very tough."

Cities and agencies that use more than their MWD allocation would have to pay punitive costs ranging from $1,480 to $2,960 per acre-foot of water.

An acre-foot is roughly the amount of water needed to serve two households for a year.

"There isn't that much flexibility left inside the house," Kightlinger said. "People are going to have to do things like remove lawns to make the cut."

City News Service contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Almond Farmers are Stigmatized as CA Drought Continues]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 07:36:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AlmondShaming.jpg California almond growers are coming under scrutiny for their water use as the state's drought worsens.]]> <![CDATA[Drought Means Big Business for Landscapers]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 22:13:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/4-9-15-Drought.JPG

California's severe drought is a booming business for local landscapers skilled in drought-tolerant landscapes.

Various companies have shown increased sales and profits because of it and some have waiting lists that stretch months.

Van Nuys-based Go Green Gardeners says business is up 300 percent since Governor Jerry Brown announced new water restrictions last week. Owner Anne Phillips says she's trying to keep up with the demand.

"That's when I started to really get a lot of phone calls that wanted to take advantage of the turf rebate," Phillips says, adding that part of her service helps homeowners navigate LA's turf removal rebate program. "We look at styles and we look at plants that they like."

Phillips says part of her service is designing how homeowners ultimately want their yards to look, sometimes within the parameters of whatever rebate might be coming from the project. The city of LA offers $3.75 per square foot of turf removed, something Phillips says she takes into consideration when designing a landscape. A common misconception, Phillips says, is whether you have to replace some of your favorite flowers for more drought-tolerant ones. While it would help, she says it's not a necessary evil.

"Even if they keep the plants that they have, take out some of the lawn, change to a drip system, that's going to save water and that's where we all want to go," she says.

In LA, water conservation is a voluntary program — so far. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a new campaign to remind homeowners to use less water. It's called "Save the Drop."

Garcetti says too often people take drops of water for granted, even though there's a chance it won't be there in the future.

While some wonder if water-rationing will become the norm in California, the head of LA's Department of Water and Power says she's doing what she can to keep rates low as long homeowners ration themselves.

"If we can conserve and harden our own local water supplies, it'll allow me to reduce the amount of imported water we use and be able to drop that upward pressure on rates," DWP Director Marcie Edwards said.

Edwards says LA imports 75 percent of its water every year.

LA's rebate program allows for homeowners to get preapproved so they can work with local landscapers on a plan that can fall within their rebate budget.

The mayor applauds those who have taken the step to change their habits, saying that if LA keeps it up, Sacramento won't have to mandate it later.

"We need to come together and solve this drought," Garcetti said. "The government has to play its part but the biggest part is the four million residents of this great city. If we each do a little bit, we'll accomplish a lot."

<![CDATA[Drought Prompts Ugliest Yard Competition in SF]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 06:09:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/0408-2015-UglyYard2.jpg

Ugly is beautiful, especially during California's historic drought.

The search is on for the ugliest yard in San Francisco, a contest put on by the city to encourage residents to conserve water by making their grounds less thirsty.

The grand prize for who claims the ugliest yard will get a landscape makeover.

Interested in participating in the competition? Upload a photo and get more information at SFEnvironment.org.

<![CDATA[February Savings Were Worst Yet: Water Board]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 18:56:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/PRAYFORRAIN.jpg

California's water board said Tuesday that residents saved less water in February than in any other month since it began tracking conservation efforts last summer.

Newly released figures showed a water use reduction of just 3 percent in February compared with 2013 figures, dismal savings that came after the driest January on record in the state.

These are "obviously very sobering times and ones where everyone needs to step up,'' said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Cities are facing increased pressure to slash water use after Gov. Jerry Brown last week ordered a mandatory statewide 25 percent drop in urban water use compared with 2013 levels.

The State Water Resources Control Board began discussing Tuesday how to enforce the mandatory reduction, which will likely include cutback targets for cities based on how much water their residents already use.

Brown called on residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency in January 2014. Californians only hit that target once — in December — prompting stronger action by the governor.

Statewide conservation has been about 10 percent, with some communities exceeding 30 percent. Places such as Newport Beach, which cut average monthly water use by 5.5 percent between July and January, face fines if they do not take steps to conserve.

Newport Beach already limits lawn watering to four times a week, which is double the state recommendation, and prohibits residents from refilling their pools more than 1 foot a week. Still, since July, Newport Beach residents used 124 gallons a day, compared with 100 gallons a day for other residents who live along the southern coastline.

After months spent "educating'' residents about what days they can water lawns and how much water they use, Newport Beach officials are seeking new authority to issue fines and have been sending out hundreds of warnings.

"We liked the friendly approach, and it seems to be working well, but we aren't afraid to issue citations,'' said George Murdoch, the city's utilities general manager.

The water board has given local water departments discretion to come up with their own conservation rules but has set some statewide regulations, such as banning lawn watering 48 hours after rain and prohibiting restaurants from serving water unless customers ask.

The agency is also going to direct municipalities to charge customers in a way that penalizes overconsumption.

Newport Beach is already limiting residential water consumption to a residence's three-year average before the drought emergency. Customers have received written warnings for years if they went over their average water use but will start getting fined later if they exceed levels this year, Murdoch said.

Water use is expected to increase this summer as tourists and seasonal residents flood into beach homes. Those guests and visitors haven't been exposed to the same conservation outreach as Californians, presenting an extra challenge.

"I get it, we aren't as low as the state average, but we're still heading in the right direction,'' said Murdoch, noting a 22 percent drop in water use in Newport Beach in January.

Meanwhile, Southern California's giant Metropolitan Water District will vote next week on a plan to ration water deliveries to the 26 agencies and cities it supplies, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The cuts, which would take effect July 1, were proposed before the governor imposed the mandatory restrictions and are expected to drive agencies to curb demand and help meet the conservation goals.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Avocado Farms Run Dry]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 08:19:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_avocadofarms0408001_1500x845.jpg California's record-setting drought is putting many avocado farmers out of business. Lili Tan reports.]]> <![CDATA[OC Uses Alert System to Remind Residents of Drought]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 21:48:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/PRAYFORRAIN.jpg

An emergency system normally used for floods, fires and other disasters was put to the test Tuesday,  but for the first time it was used as a reminder to Orange County residents to conserve water.

Phone calls from the program called, AlertOC, went out to 1.2 million people who have signed up to get emergency updates. What they learned is that a drought can be an emergency, too.

In San Clemente, what looks like a Midwestern prairie is actually a park in transition.

The lawn is being removed while pipes are being installed for recycled water. It will cost millions for this city to reduce its water usage.

"It's expensive, but it's short-term pain for long-term gains," said Bob Baker, a San Clemente Councilman.

Residents must now shift to specific days for watering.

Katie Wildfong is one of seven children in her home.

"We have to like turn the sink off when we brush our teeth," said the San Clemente resident. "When we do the dishes we can't leave the water running."

On Tuesday, the conservation message is being heard countywide.

This is a test of the AlertOC emergency system.

For the first time two dozen water agencies joined with local cities to remind folks to turn off the tap.

The Moulton Niguel Water District just cut indoor water limits from 65 to 60 gallons per person per day, anything above that will cost you extra. Experts say incentives seem to work.

Kelly Winsor, of the Moulton Niguel Water District, said the agency has seen reduction of 26 percent since 2011.

"They are listening to the message," she said.

In Newport Beach there are citations for those who go over the limit.

George Murdoch, a utilities manager for the city of Newport Beach, said the worst case scenario is that residents would have to save water for drinking, dire predictions from a city that is averaging 10 gallons more per person a day than the state average.

"It's really important to remind people that even though the water is still coming out the tap we have a problem," said Darcy Burke, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Water District of Orange County.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Beach Blasted For Water Wasting ]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:45:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tap+water+faucet.jpg

Businesses and homeowners in Newport Beach are taking steps towards conserving water that will hopefully add up in the fight against California's drought and limit the fines the city faces for not meeting the statewide quota of reducing water consumption by 25 percent.

"Making people ask for a glass of water, instead of just handing them a glass of water, and then going to more disposables to cut down on a lot of the dishwashing," Andrew Gabriel said, a restaurant owner in the coastal community.

The city of Newport Beach already limits lawn watering to four times a week and prohibits residents from refilling their pools more than one foot a week.

After months spent "educating" residents about what days they can water lawns and how much water they use, Newport Beach officials are seeking new authority to issue fines and have been sending out hundreds of warnings.

"We liked the friendly approach, and it seems to be working well, but we aren't afraid to issue citations," said George Murdoch, the city's utilities general manager.

Since last July, Newport Beach residents used 124 gallons a day, compared with 100 gallons a day used by others who live in nearby beach communities. Much still has to be done, but officials say they they're at least heading in the right direction.

"Especially on the outdoor irrigation. Restricting the days of the week was challenging for some. A lot of homeowners don't even know how to change the timer on their sprinkler system so they call in and say, 'how do I do this?', so we know that they're getting the message and reducing," Murdoch said.

The water board has given local water departments discretion to come up with their own conservation rules but has set some statewide regulations, such as banning lawn watering 48 hours after rain and prohibiting restaurants from serving water unless customers ask.

The agency is also going to direct municipalities to charge customers in a way that penalizes overconsumption.

Photo Credit: Tim Graham]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Desalination Plant to Be Largest in Western Hemisphere]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 11:34:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/carlsbad+desalination+plant.jpg

A Southern California desalination plant set to open this fall will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the only water supply in San Diego not dependent on rainfall or a snowpack.

When the facility opens, it should generate 50 million gallons of potable water each day. That’s enough water for 300,000 residents, or 7 percent of the county of San Diego.

In light of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new mandatory water reductions, Jessica Jones, Community Outreach Manager for Poseidon Water, said many are looking forward to the opening of the plant.

“There are a lot of eyes on the Carlsbad Desalination Project because of the drought situation we’re in,” said Jones.

Four hundred workers are on site, making sure the construction is set to finish on time. So far, Jones said, the plant has passed the systems tests.

Ocean water will be pumped in through a 72-inch feed line and end up in a filter bay, where it will be treated several times before it reaches the pressure vessels. There, the salt is extracted through reverse osmosis.

While a new water source will be welcome, it certainly will not be cheap for residents.

“Desalinated water will be more expensive than imported water when it comes online,” Jones said. “But soon, imported water rates will continue to rise and imported water will be more expensive than desalinated water. And what we need to look at as consumers is what is the cost of not having water at all.”

Because of the high cost of desalination, San Diego County customers will likely see increase in their water bills. 

Studies by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have shown no negative impact on the environment, Jones said, though environmentalists are still concerned about the plant's effect on the local fish and marine life populations. 

Livia Borak with the Coast Law Group in Encinitas said that the plant, as the most energy intensive water supply option, "exaverbates climate change" and should be used only as a "last resort."

"This is especially true for the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which not only negatively impacts marine life but also fails to mitigate the majority of its greenhouse gas emissions," said Borak in a statement. "When 60 percent of residential water use is spent on outdoor landscaping, we should be looking to conservation first."

Despite criticism, operators insist the project is environmentally safe, and much needed. 

“It is a new water supply so it does give us some protection from drought in the future,” said Jones. “But it’s still important for residents and businesses to conserve as much as they can. It’s just part of the puzzle to being water dependent in California.”

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Gov. Defends Drought Order]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 04:28:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/171*120/drought21.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday defended his order requiring Californians statewide to cut back on their water use in a historic mandate that spares those who consume the most — farmers.

As California endures a fourth year of drought, Brown's order this week requires towns and cities statewide to draw down water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels. While past reductions were voluntary, Brown said he is using his emergency powers to make the cuts mandatory.

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.

Brown announced the mandate on April 1 standing in the Sierra Nevada, where the snowpack measures at 5 percent of historical average, the lowest in 65 years of record-keeping.

Addressing agriculture, Brown said on the broadcast that farmers asserting century-old water rights deeply rooted in state law that allows them access to more water than others "are probably going to be examined.''

After declaring a drought emergency in January 2014, Brown urged Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 20 percent from the previous year. That resulted in great variations among communities and an overall reduction of about 10 percent statewide. Brown did the same as governor in 1977, during another severe drought, asking for a voluntary reduction of 25 percent.

The mandatory order will also require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to curb their water use.

"It is a wakeup call,'' Brown said. "It's requiring action and changes in behavior from the Oregon border all the way to the Mexican border. It affects lawns. It affects people's — how long they stay in the shower, how businesses use water.''

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California Drought Images: Disappearing Water]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 11:05:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/182*120/04-02-2015-orville-lake-ca-drought-3.gif

The images below illustrate the severity of California's drought with past and recent images from around the state, now in its fourth consecutive dry year.

Some of the images are from north-central California's Lake Oroville, where receeding water levels over the past four years have revealed large swaths of lakebed. Other images from NASA show the dramatic snowpack reduction in the Sierra Nevada range, where springtime runoff provides water for an estimated 25 million Californians.

App Users: Scroll to bottom of article to access images on mobile site

Lake Oroville: July 20, 2011 - Aug. 19. 2014

The image below shows Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina in north-central California. The first image shows full water under the Green Bridge in July 2011. The second image from August 2014 shows a dramatic change as the lake reached 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet.

Folsom Dam: July 20, 2011 - Aug. 19, 2014

In the image below, full water levels are seen at Folsom Dam at Folsom Lake on July 20, 2011 in El Folsom, California. Significant lower water levels are visible behind the dam on August 19, 2014 in the next image, which shows the lake at 40 percent of its total capacity of 977,000 acre feet.

Bidwell Marina, Oroville: July 20, 2011 - Aug. 19, 2014

The images below show Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville in north-central California in July 2011 and August 2014. Lake and reservoir water levels across the state are at historic lows.

Lake Oroville, Enterprise Bridge: July 20, 2011 - Aug. 19, 2014

The before-and-after images below provide an aerial view of Enterprise Bridge over Lake Oroville. The first image show full water levels in July 2011, the second image shows a significant water-level drop in August 2014.

Sierra Nevada Range: January 2013 - January 2014

These NASA images show the difference in Sierra Nevada range snowpack between January 2013 and January 2014. Springtime runoff from the snowpack provides water for millions of Californians.

Mount Shasta: Nov. 1, 2013 - Jan. 4, 2014

NASA's Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured these images of California’s Mount Shasta. The first shows a snow-covered peak in January 2014, the second shows a naked landscape in November 2014 after a dry season.

More California Drought Images

Click on the galleries below to view more drought images from around California, including a look at the dismal snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas.

Photo Credit: Getty
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<![CDATA[QUIZ: CA's New Water Restrictions]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 08:07:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-quiz-jerry-brown-restrictions-california-thumb.jpg

Sweeping new water-use restrictions will go into effect across California, Governor Jerry Brown ordered Wednesday, April 1.

The goal is to slow some of the damage caused by California's sweeping, severe drought -- but do you really understand what the mandatory restrictions mean for you? Let's hope your knowledge is deeper than the state's water supply...

Previous Quizzes:
Your Neighbors Probably Think You Should Be Saving More Water
How Water Smart Are You?
So You Think You Know About California's Drought?

CLICK HERE: Complete coverage of California's drought

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration by Heather Navarro
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Caltrans Sets Goal to Reduce Water Use By 50 Percent]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 17:33:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/0403-2015-Sprinkler.jpg

Caltrans on Friday announced it has set a goal of reducing its water use by 50 percent.

The announcement comes days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order requiring cities and water districts to cut water use by 25 percent.

"We've already met our goal of 30 percent of last year," Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said. "We're going toward reduction of 50 percent."

Haus said Caltrans will use $28 million from emergency funds to update irrigation systems and install more smart sprinklers across the state.

"They've been showing to use half the water of traditional sprinkler systems," Haus said. "We've also stopped irrigating in some areas where we can."

Haus also said landscaping projects will be postponed and watering medians will be avoided.

Colleen Valles with the Santa Clara Valley Water District said the county's water savings is just 13 percent.

According to the State Water Board, the Bay Area made progress in December by conserving a total of 21 percent.

In January, when San Francisco didn't see a drop of rain, home owner turned the sprinklers back on and water reduction fell to 3 percent.

"We also recommend people check back for leaks, take shorter showers," Valles said. "Get your car washed at a professional car wash place where they recycle the water."

In San Jose, the city recommends residents water only between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. The city's current water-saving recommendation is 20 percent. There will be a meeting later this month to discuss a likely increase.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Easy Ways to Conserve Water]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 09:41:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Shower-head-generic-7308089.jpg

In the wake of Wednesday's mandatory water restrictions announced by California Gov. Jerry Brown, it may be a good time to consider some of the advice from water conservation experts in the region.

Fixing a leaky faucet or plumbing joint can save 20 gallons a day, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Limiting water runoff by rethinking how much water you use on your lawn can save 750 to 1,500 gallons a month; shorter showers offer other savings.

High-efficiency clothes washers save over 10,000 gallons of water each year, and nearly $100 as well, since they use up to 50 percent less water than conventional top-loading models, the DWP says.

When taking a bath, start filling the tub with the drain already plugged instead of waiting first for the water to get warm, suggests Aquafornia, the Water Education Foundation of California.

Other ideas include turning off the water while brushing your teeth or while washing dishes. And while you’re at the kitchen sink, the foundation suggests using the least amount of dish soap possible to avoid a lot of water needed to rinse.

Outside the house, use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. Don’t water your lawn on windy or cool/overcast days.

Several federal and state agencies offer these water-saving tips:

  • Check all faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks.
  • Never use your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket – throw it away, don’t flush it.
  • Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator.
  • Rinse dishes and vegetables in a full sink or pan of water instead of running water.
  • Install water saving showerheads and ultra-low-flush toilets.
  • Water your lawn or garden early in the morning or late in evening.
  • Equip all hoses with shut-off nozzles.
  • Use drip irrigation systems.
  • Plant drought-tolerant or low water-use plants and grasses.
  • Place mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and discourage weeds.
  • Set your mower blades one notch higher, since longer grass means less evaporation.
  • Use a pool cover to cut down on water evaporation.
  • Use a bucket instead of a hose to wash your car.
  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off.
  • Take a short shower instead of a tub bath.
  • Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
  • Raise your lawn mower cutting height - longer grass blades help shade each other, reduce evaporation, and inhibit weed growth.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Drought DIY: SoCal Water Savers Tackle Their Turf]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 19:53:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Drought-generic-water-irrig.jpg

With the announcement of new water restrictions in California, this weekend may be a big one for homeowners looking for the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to make their lawns more drought-tolerant.

The city of LA and many other municipalities still offer rebate to homeowners who replace traditional lawns with those that use less water. Some estimates show rebates averaging around $2,000.

But with the push to conserve more and more water — and sooner, rather than later — nurseries and garden centers are seeing a jump in requests for help.

"This year we've had a hugely expanded area of drought-tolerant plants," said Home Depot associate Ellen Nagler. "It makes a beautiful yard and very easy to take care of."

Nagler said places like Home Depot have upped its inventory of drought-tolerant plants because of the increased demand.

Sherman Oaks resident Allyson Davis says she changed over her own front lawn to a drought-tolerant one in October and this month is starting to see the savings.

"I just got our first water bill that I can really see the difference and it was a few hundred dollars," Davis said with a smile. "So now I just have to figure out who's taking the long showers!"

At the Sego Nursery in Valley Village, Dean Murakami says if there's only one thing people do this weekend, his suggestion is to add mulch.

"If you mulch and especially keep the top inch dry, that acts as insulation and holds the water in," he said, adding that watering your lawn in the early hours (he suggests 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.), you can take advantage of the morning dew as well.

"If they mulch around the plant but not next to the plant, keep the base of the plant clear and two to three inches high of mulch will save you 25 percent of the water," he said.

Murakami says he's seen the changes in buying habits, too.

"People are going to switch to California natives, that's what's going to happen," he said."

Murakami believes the only downside to changing over your lawn to those California natives is that the younger plants need at least two seasons to take hold and expand their roots — that means heavy watering to start before less watering to save you the monthly bills.

"Watering all the time, smaller amounts aren't going to do anything. We need to water thoroughly and then not water very often," he said.

In Sherman Oaks, Tom Astle says he's been working on the changeover to a drought-tolerant yard for the last couple years.

"In my backyard I have an area of native and other similar plants that I literally never irrigate," he said, adding that he's also allowed his grass to grow longer and thicker to help keep the water in.

"Everything's in bloom, and if you pick native plants and things from similar climates, you'll have stuff blooming all year long," he said. "It's not tropical looking, it's a different look, but you don't have to water it as much."

Astle points to a need to change what people see as aesthetically pleasing in order to move forward with what could be a 40-year drought.

"People used to think of Southern California like you could pound a broomstick and the ground and it would grow," Astle said. "You just water everything and everything is like a lush Hawaiian golf course, but it isn't the climate we live in."

For Davis, she admits the change can be tough. She says her kids were concerned about losing their memories of playing on a lush front yard but says it was a change she's glad she made — even though she knows not everyone is ready to do it themselves.

"I have noticed a lot of people in our neighborhood taking out their lawns," she said. "But I've also notice people still hosing off their driveways and it makes me crazy."

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: California Drought Impacts Colorado]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:02:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_codrought_1500x845.jpg Drought conditions, mainly in California, could have a major impact on Colorado. ]]> <![CDATA[WATCH: High Pool Demand Despite Drought]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:57:13 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_droughtpools0403_1500x845.jpg California's home swimming pool business is booming despite record drought.]]> <![CDATA[CA's Changing Lawn Landscape]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 12:14:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_drought_running_dry_conan_1200x675_422827075823.jpg The governor wants plush, green lawns ripped out in favor of drought-tolerant landscapes as part of a plan to battle California's drought. A look at a company that does just that. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday April 2, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Climate Change Could Cost CA Billions, Study Says]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 20:15:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/188*120/HighTideSealBeach2001.jpg

While a parched California copes with a long-term drought, water threatens to cost the state billions in a much different way if climate change continues unchecked, according to a new study.

By 2050, rising sea levels could engulf between $8 and $10 billion in coastal property, with up to $10 billion more susceptible to tidal flooding, according to the study by climate change research group Risky Business.

Climate change will likely deepen the drought, change rain- and snowfall patterns, double or triple the number of extremely hot days in inland California and more: "Extreme heat will fuel large and costly wildfires, endanger water resources, drive up energy costs, exacerbate air pollution, and threaten human health," says the study, "From Boom to Bust? Climate Risk in the Golden State."

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer chair Risky Business and commissioned the report, released Thursday.

"Every city in California should be concerned about possible impacts (of climate change) on the state's agriculture and water supply," Bloomberg said in a news release.

Rising air temperatures are expected to warm the oceans and melt ice across the world, raising sea levels, according to many climate change models. The Risky Business analysts found that, because 85 percent of Californians live in coastal counties, the state's economic output would be threatened by rising oceans.

By 2100, $19 billion in property will likely be underwater, and the new waterline could threaten coastal infrastructure. San Diego is especially vulnerable, facing a predicted sea-level rise of 1.9 to 3.4 feet, the study says.

Increasing heat is the best understood outcome of climate change, the study's analysts say, probably bringing more extremely hot days and fewer freezing days in the Golden State. That could lead to less snowfall, an important and already-diminishing source of water.

A hotter California would likely impact agriculture beyond what farmers are dealing with under the state's more than three-year drought. For example, Inland Empire cotton crops could yield $38 million less each year by the end of the century because the plant is sensitive to heat, the study says.

The higher heat could threaten outdoor laborers, whose productivity is forecasted to drop up to 2.2 percent by the end of the century in the Inland South region, which include San Bernardino, Riverside, Inyo and Imperial counties. The region would also see a higher energy demand than anywhere else in the state, leading to probable cost increases between 19 and 35 percent, according to the study.

"Every year that goes by without a comprehensive public and private sector response to climate change is a year that locks in future climate events that will have a far more devastating effect on our local, regional, and national economies," the study warns.

Photo Credit: File photo (Getty Images/David McNew)]]>
<![CDATA[Beating the Drought With Desalination]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 07:50:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP801175476782.jpg

Even as some look to the ocean as the ultimate solution to California's drought, cost and coastal environmental issues have held back all but a handful of ocean desalination projects.

But now a small water district in Ventura County has leapfrogged ahead and is producing drinking water via desalination technology--even though the ocean is not even within sight.

The source instead is so-called "brackish" groundwater, contaminated with mineral salts to the point that as it came from the well, it could no longer be used for irrigation, much less be drinkable.

It is being pumped into a plant near Camarillo, and purified into drinking water for customers of the Camrosa Water District.

"We needed to be more self-reliant," said Tony Stafford, the district's general manager.

At full capacity, the Round Mountain Water Treatment Plant is designed to produce one million gallons a day -- not enough to go far in a city the size of Los Angeles, but 10 percent of the water needs of a district serving 27,000 people.

The desalinated water will reduce the need for imported water--but not eliminate it, Stafford acknowledged. The district historically has imported 40 percent of its drinkable water from Northern California via the California Aqueduct. The major source of that water is snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada snowpack.  Wednesday's end of season survey found the snowpack at only 5 percent of normal.

The new Round Mountain plant uses reverse osmosis filtration, same as can be used for ocean water desalination. Apart from the initial construction cost, such plants require a considerable amount of electricity to push the water through the filters. But it's less costly with brackish water because it's less salty than seawater.

"We can produce it for about the same cost as imported water," said Stafford, putting the price at about $1,200 an acre-foot, compared to up to $2,000 or more for desalinated ocean water.

The new reverse osmosis plant was built on the same property as the Camrosa district's reclamation plant, which purifies sewage water for delivery through purple pipes to irrigation applications -- but not for use as drinking water.

As a Camrosa customer, the nearby Cal State University Channel Islands campus has been receiving the recycled water for landscaping, and now is receiving the desalinated water for its tap water system.

"Sweet," said student Austin Finley of San Diego.

"We've come a long ways in saving water," said Raudel Banujelos, campus director of facilities support.

Camrosa is considering building a second groundwater desalination plant in the Santa Rosa Valley. Similar plants are under consideration by other local districts served by the Calleguas Water District, a wholesaler. Calleguas built the salinity pipeline that carries the concentrated brine waste product to the ocean.

Along the Ventura County coast, there is another concern:  intrusion by ocean water into groundwater aquifers that have been drawn down by pumping, and are now being salinated. A plant to purify that brackish water has been proposed by the United Water Conservation District.

Not far up the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara, the city council is preparing to award a contract to update and reopen the city's long idled desalination plant, said Joshua Haggmark, the coastal city's water resources manager.

The once-trailblazing plant had been built in response to the drought of the early 1990s, and completed only months before the rains returned. The cost of the power to desalinate water made it so much more expensive than other sources that the plant was mothballed.

The renovation work is expected to take as long as a year, with desalination resuming next year.

Also expected to go online next year is the even larger desalination plant being built in northern San Diego county in Carlsbad. It is being developed by the Boston-based Poseidon Water.

A sister plant has been proposed for Huntington Beach, but has yet to surmount coastal permitting and financial issues.

Ocean desalination projects are so expensive that developers require longterm commitments for the purchase of the drinking water they will produce.  Poseidon has been in negotiations with the Orange County Water District.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Golf Course Deals With Drought Cutbacks]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:20:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Larsen_Drought_Golf_Noon_Web_1200x675_422149187722.jpg Golfers in Encino are fighting off what feels like a drought hangover the day after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered golf courses to significantly reduce water use as the state deals with a water crisis. Kate Larsen reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Thursday, April 2, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Tips on Conserving Water at Home]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 10:56:51 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/04-02-2015-crystal-drought-home.JPG Do you know how much water you’re using at home? From the bathroom to the kitchen, NBC4's Crystal Egger has tips on how to conserve water.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Brown Orders Unprecedented Water Reductions ]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 19:04:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/03-26-2015-sierra-snowpack-drought-467199106_master-%287%29.jpg

For the first time in state history, cities and towns across California must implement mandatory restrictions to reduce water use during the fourth consecutive year of drought under an executive order announced Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The unprecedented move follows the lowest snowpack ever recorded.

Snowpack in the Sierra mountain range melts during spring and provides water for an estimated 25 million Californians.

"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action," Brown said Wednesday. "Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible."

Mandatory water reductions will be put in place by the State Water Resources Control Board across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent -- a saving that will amount to about 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, according to Brown's office.

The drought's effects are rippling across the state, hurting wildlife and forcing farmers to leave fields unplanted. So far this winter, wildfires are burning through nearly four times as many acres as usual.

Brown's order announced Wednesday will:

  • Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;
  • Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models;
  • Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and
  • Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

Water restrictions approved earlier this month banned restaurants from offering water unless customers ask and forced hotels and motels to offer guests a chance to deline fresh towels and sheets.

Those restrictions will require local water departments to cut back the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don't, residents must follow a state rule limiting their sprinkling to twice a week.

Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days after.

Agricultural water users will now be required to report more water use information to state regulations.

Additional actions required by the order announced Wednesday include:

  • Taking action against water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state;
  • Updating standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residential communities and taking action against communities that ignore these standards; and
  • Making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nothing to Show for CA in Final Snowpack Measurement ]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:15:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/AP090402027388.jpg

The final snowpack survey of the season was conducted Wednesday in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and, as expected, the results illustrated the severity of the state's drought.

The snowpack has been in decline since electronic measurements on Dec. 30 found the statewide snow water equivalent at 50 percent of the historical average for that date. Subsequent statewide readings measured 25 percent of the Jan. 29 average and 19 percent of the March 3 average.

There was no snow on the ground at the site of Wednesday's survey at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevadas. The final manual survey of what is historically the wet season in California confirmed electronic readings that show the statewide snowpack with less water content than any April 1 since 1950.

The snowpack is usually at its peak in April. The statewide snowpack holds about 1.4 inches of water, which is 5 percent of the historical average of 28.3 inches.

The previous lowpoint for April 1 was 25 percent in 2014 and 1977.

"Today's survey underscores the severity of California's drought," said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. "Water conservation must become a way of life during the worst drought in most Californians’ lifetimes."

The survey coincided with an announcement from Gov. Jerry Brown regarding mandatory water-use reductions across the state. Mandatory water reductions will be put in place by the State Water Resources Control Board across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent -- a saving that will amount to about 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, according to Brown's office.

The snowpack measurement is important because snow supplies about a third of the state's water, and a higher snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall. Officials say the snowpack is already far below the historic lows of 1977 and 2014, when it was 25 percent of normal on April 1 -- the time when the snowpack is generally at its peak.

The latest survey on March 3 found a snowpack water equivalent of just 0.9 inches -- a total that suggested California's drought will run through a fourth year.

Brown declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and stressed the need for sustained water conservation.

Photo Credit: AP ]]>