<![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 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 03:40:54 -0700 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 03:40:54 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Long Beach Issues First Water-Waster Fine]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:21:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP223500730484.jpg

A business that continually violated four landscape irrigation violations earned the Long Beach Water Department's first water fine this week, the utility said Friday.

The business was charged $800 for the violations, identified through smart meter technology. It comes as California enters its fourth year of drought and the state plans to tighten water restrictions.

“California needs to take greater measures to ensure water conservation and that means moving into the enforcement stage of water restrictions,” said Harry Saltzgaver, president of the Board of Water Commissioners, in a statement.

Last week, California's water control board expanded water-use restrictions, requiring restaurants stop serving patrons water unless they ask for it and barring certain kinds of outdoor water uses. All but two percent of California was experiencing at least a moderate drought this week, affecting 37 million people, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Long Beach water didn't name the business that was cited. The city's water restrictions can be found here: www.lbwater.org/water-use-prohibitions

Photo Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dismal Snowpack in Sierras]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:30:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/03-26-2015-sierra-snowpack-drought-467199106_master-%289%29.jpg Four years of no significant snowfall has left wide patches of bare ground in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Neighbors Aren't Doing Enough About Drought: Poll]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:08:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/generic-sprinklers.jpg

The majority of Californians say their neighbors are failing to do enough to respond to the state's severe drought, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute.

Two-thirds of residents surveyed, 66 percent, said people in their part of the state are not doing their share when it comes to water conservation and drought-relief measures. About 24 percent said their neighbors are doing just enough and 6 percent said they were doing too much, according to the poll.

"The ongoing drought is raising concerns about the long-term water supply," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. "Most Californians think their neighbors could be doing more to save water today."

The poll, released Wednesday, showed that 66 percent of those surveyed believe their regional water supply is a "big problem," near a record high of 68 percent in October. The problem seemed most urgent in the Central Valley, the heart of California's agricultural operations, where 76 percent said the water supply is a major problem.

When asked about the most important issue facing California, poll participants were just about as likely to indicate water and the drought as they were jobs and the economy. Those issues were much higher priorities than education and immigration, according to the poll.

More than 93 percent of the state is under severe drought, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report, which categorizes drought into five levels of severity -- abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. Nearly 42 percent of California is under exceptional drought, an increase of nearly 2 percentage points over last week.

One year ago, 24 percent of the state was under exceptional drought.

The state's critically low reservoirs received little relief this winter as California nears the end of its wet season. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where springtime water runoff benefits an estimated 25 million Californians, precipitation since October is 10 inches below normal.

The poll comes a week after the governor, who declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and called on residents to reduce water use by 20 percent, announced a plan to accelerate funding for water projects. That $1 billion proposal to speed up spending and offer about $75 million in immediate aid to residents and wildlife was sent to the governor's desk Thursday.

The legislation accelerates water infrastructure spending, some of which can boost local water supplies in future years. It includes $267 million to give out grants for water-recycling projects and expand drinking water in small and poor cities.

Earlier this month, the State Water Resources Control Board extended and expanded restrictions on water use, admitting that its actions so far have been focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. Members voted to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

New rules will require local water departments to restrict 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.

Editor's Note: The Public Policy Institute of California poll results are based on a telephone survey of 1,706 California adult residents conducted March 8 to 17.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Meager Snowpack Hurts More than Ski Season]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 06:51:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/1965d0b6bd9b45b8a531d6eb652a1a3e.JPG.jpg

Once upon a time, early spring was a great time for snow sports, but as drought moves into year four, skiers and riders are grateful to have anything between them and the slope.

"It's pretty slushy, pretty melty," said snowboarder Nicky Hackman after a run Wednesday at Snow Summit in Big Bear.

"Kind of like wakeboarding out there," chimed in her friend Micah Peasly. "It's still fun," she said of her reward for driving from Los Angeles.

Big Bear's Snow Summit and Bear Valley are the last of the local ski areas still open, thanks to snow-making. But they will also call it a season Sunday.

"If you're a real skier, you'll ski on anything," said Billy Robbins, who drove up from Huntington Beach.

Winter weather during this prolonged drought has been not only drier than usual, but often also warmer.

"We have longer warm spells that we can't even make snow during some of that time," said Chris Riddle, marketing vice-president for the Big Bear Mountain Resorts.

Far more snow usually falls on resorts to the north in the Sierra Nevada, but they are struggling as well, with a dozen in the Lake Tahoe Area already closed. Mammoth Mountain counts 120 inches of snow so far this season, far more than what has fallen on ski areas closer to Los Angeles, but that represents Mammoth's driest winter since 1976.

Still, Mammoth expects to stay open at least through April, said spokeswoman Lauren Burke.

Sierra snowpack is monitored closely at multiple locations by California's Dept. of Water Resources because snowpack melt normally provides about one-third of the state's water needs.

As of the latest readings earlier this month, snowpack on average amounts to only 19 percent of normal, only one percentage point above the lowest ever measurements of 18 percent taken in 1991.

Disappointing snow conditions at resorts can be seen as a bellwether for how much water will be available to fill the reservoirs that feed the California Aqueduct.

"It tells you it's a time of reckoning as you look around and see how little snow there truly is," said skier Brian Reccow as he surveyed the Sugar Bowl ski area west of Tahoe.

Allocations from the state water project are now set at 20 percent.

Next month, it's expected a decision will be made to make a 10 to 20 percent cut in allocations to member agencies of the Metropolitan Water District, which distributes water imported from the Colorado River and the State Project.

"I'm just hoping we have drinking water over here the next few years." said skier Raj Kadevari, who lives in Palm Desert.

Location has also been a factor in the drought's impact on water systems, and on ski areas as well.

Big Bear's resorts have benefitted from access to nearby Big Bear Lake as a source for snowmaking. It was last filled to the top of its dam in 2012, and since then has fallen 11 feet, according to Mike Stephenson, general manager of the Big Bear Municipal Water District.

He expects it could drop another three feet over summer. In recent decades, it dropped as low as 17 feet in 2004.

Big Bear Lake is not tapped for drinking water. For decades it had served as an irrigation source for growers in the Redlands area. But under an agreement dating back two decades, irrigation water can be taken only when the lake is within four feet of full, Stephenson said.

"We've never even come close to our maximum that we can use," Riddle said.

The 2014-15 season actually had begun promisingly, with a series of storms in December.  But then it stopped and temperatures rose.

"We normally get a couple of good spring storms," said Kevin Kenney, a manager at Blauersnowboards in Big Bear.  "But this year nothing."  The shop is preparing for its winter close-out sale before moving on to stocking for spring and summer sports. 

As the days grow longer and the last of the snow melts, the focus shifts to mountain biking and lake activities, with hope next winter the drought will relent.

Photo Credit: Barbara Janeway]]>
<![CDATA[PHOTOS: SoCal Drought Shaming]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 07:00:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/Water+Wasters+Santa+Ana.jpg NBC4 viewers sent in these photos of water going to waste in Southern California. On Tuesday, California officials banned public water waste in response to the statewide drought, and Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback in water use. If you see water waste in your neighborhood, send pictures to NBC4 at isee@nbclosangeles.com.

Photo Credit: Catie Rae Chornomud]]>
<![CDATA[New Drought Plan for Struggling CA Counties]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:23:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DroughtCA.jpg California Governor Jerry Brown's new drought plan calls for millions of dollars to be used for food assistance in counties struck hard by California's ongoing drought.]]> <![CDATA[Lake Will Be Closed for Recreation Due to Drought]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 14:04:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/03-17-2015-diamond-valley-lake-drought.jpg

In a blow to boaters that underscores the growing extent of California's water squeeze, the level of Diamond Valley Lake is falling so low it will have to be closed to recreational uses on April 15, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) announced Tuesday.

Water is receding so far that ramps in the Diamond Valley Marina are being left high and dry, said MWD spokesman Bob Muir.  

It would be the first recreation closure forced by low water since the 2009 drought, but the second time for the reservoir since it opened to the public in 2003. The lake's ramp was shuttered from October 2008 to December 2009 because of low lake levels.

"This action speaks volumes about the seriousness of the water-supply situation Southern California faces now and next year. That's why continued conservation is essential," MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said.

The largest reservoir in Southern California, Diamond Valley was built a generation ago to provide a buffer against drought.

During the suspension, the lake will remain open to the public with three miles of shoreline for public fishing. Kayaks and canoes "that meet guidelines" will be allowed as long as the boarding docks are serviceable.

Drawing on its reserves the past three years has so far enabled the Southland to avoid impacts already being felt in other parts of the state.

But now the insurance account is running low.

Diamond Valley is now down to 48 percent of capacity, Muir said, especially significant because this is the end of the winter season when California banks water reserves for hot, dry season. Barring a miraculous series of storms, by fall, it is expected that Diamond Valley could be drawn down to only a quarter of capacity, the lowest it has been since first filled in 2002.

"Diamond Valley Lake's exposed shoreline and dry boat ramp serve as a stark reminder to Southland consumers about the importance of saving water during this drought," Kightlinger said.

For more than a century, since Los Angeles built an aqueduct from the Owens Valley, semiarid Southern California has relied on imported water to augment its own natural supplies. Metropolitan is the largest wholesale supplier to Southern California, serving 26 member agencies, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  

MWD imports water from the Colorado River and from Northern California via the State Water Project, the major source for Diamond Valley. However, in this statewide drought, precipitation is down throughout the state, and the Sierra snowpack is far below historic normal. California's Department of Water Resources has projected it will be able to deliver only 20 percent of its usual allocations. That may be revised upward, but MWD is not expecting it to go above 25 percent.

Construction of the reservoir took three years, and nearly doubled the Southland's surface water storage capacity. At full capacity, Diamond Valley holds 800,000 acre-feet of water, or 860 billion gallons, six times the capacity of nearby Lake Perris.

Next month, the MWD board is expected to reduce allocations to its member agencies on the order of 10 to 20 percent, Chairman Randy Record said Friday. Member retailers who go over will face surcharges.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[QUIZ: How Water Smart Are You?]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 17:22:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-quiz-week-2-fines-thumbnail.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 info about the reservoir-emptying dry spell.

You probably think you know it all about the drought -- maybe you did well on our first drought quiz. Well, let's hope your knowledge is deeper than the state's water supply...

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[Southland's Largest Water Wholesaler Expects to Cut Allocations]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 23:09:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ca-drought-stock-breaking-465639979.jpg

Nearing the end of a third straight winter that has failed to deliver needed precipitation, and with reserves dwindling, the Metropolitan Water District expects it will have to cut allocations to its member agencies, Chairman Randy Record said Friday.

"We're coming to the point where we're going to have to make some big decisions that really impact people," said Record.

The Metropolitan board is expected to vote next month on adopting a plan. The level of the cut has not been determined, but is expected to be in range of 10-20 percent, according to Record. It would be the first cut since the drought of 2009.

For more than a century, semiarid Southern California has relied on augmenting its limited water supplies with imports from outside the region. Metropolitan serves as the wholesale supplier of water imported from the Colorado River and from Northern California via the State Water Project. Its 26 member agencies include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Most member agencies have additional water sources beyond what Metropolitan supplies, so the impact of the MWD allocation cut would vary between agencies. However, local sources of water have also been stressed, not only by lack of rain and mountain snowfall, but also by record temperatures.

To make the region more drought resilient, two decades ago Metropolitan constructed a massive reservoir in Diamond Valley near Hemet. Largely because of its reserve supply, Southern California so far has been less directly affected by the drought than much of the rest of the state.

But now much of the insurance account has been consumed — Diamond Valley is down to 48 percent of capacity at the end of the typical rainy season.

"We're getting close to that critical range," said Record, noting the MWD must keep a reserve for unexpected catastrophes such as a major earthquake that could sever aqueducts.

A year ago January, when Governor Jerry Brown issued the drought proclamation, he asked Californias to cut back water usage 20 percent voluntarily. Some individual water districts have also set target reductions for their customers, and in some cases reinforced the targets with tier rates that price water higher above certain consumption levels.

A study of tiered pricing found it responsible for a 10-15 percent cut in consumption by customers of the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, said study author Kenneth Baerenklau, Associate professor of Public Policy at UC Riverside.

Eastern Municipal customers have continued to conserve enough that in recent years the district has not required its full allocation from MWD, and may not need to cut further, depending on where the MWD board sets allocations next month.  

The utility is already meeting "Level Two" allocation, said Jolene Walsh, director of public and governmental affairs.

"If higher, we may have to re-evaluate and ask customers to conserve more," Walsh said.

For residents who have already made significant cuts, reducing water usage another 10 to 20 percent may be difficult.

"We can't because we've done it," said Laura Monroy of Lake Matthews. She and husband Julio Monroy said their home does not have lawn, and all of their plants are drought tolerant. He suggested saving water used to irrigate large scale municipal lawns.

In 2009, the city of Los Angeles adopted a water conservation ordinance that remains in effect. It includes pricing water in two tiers. The board of the DWP may consider adding additional tiers, said communications director Joe Ramallo.

Tier pricing is by its nature more complicated and requires more sophisticated tracking and billing systems. At least one district seeking to adopt it has run into a legal challenge. But given its potential for rewarding water saving, Prof. Baerenklau said he expects tier rates will become more widespread — especially if there is no relief from drought conditions.

Photo Credit: FILE/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[So You Think You Know About California's Drought?]]> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 07:20:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/%5BKNSD%5D+Water_Hose_Drought_generic_Image.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 info about the lawn-browning dry spell.

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

CLICK HERE: Complete coverage of California's drought

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[City Considers Water Waster Fines]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 21:58:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tap+water+faucet.jpg

A San Gabriel Valley city is expected to take drought plans to the next level by authorizing fines for households and other customers that fail to cut back 30 percent or more.

The item will go before the Sierra Madre City Council Tuesday night for final approval. It passed its initial review two weeks ago.

"It's time for us to demonstrate that we are serious about it, because our water supply is still in jeopardy," said John Capoccia, mayor pro tem of a city especially hard hit by the drought and entirely reliant for the past year and a half on water imported on an emergency basis.

The 3-square-mile city of 11,000 people has its own municipal water division.

The city's conservation goal was upped from 20 percent to 30 percent a year ago, and voters approved rate annual rate increases on the order of 15 percent.

Since then, 75 percent of the city's water customers have achieved the conservation goal, Capoccia said, and about 20 percent more are close, with the remaining five percent considerably exceeding the usage limit. The fines are intended as incentive.

"It's necessary to do it to force the conservation," Capoccia said.

The fine would effectively double the cost of water for all usage that exceeds the customer's bimonthly allocation.

When Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January 2013, he asked all Californians to conserve 20 percent.

Last summer, California's Department of Water Resources banned specific practices such as washing off driveways as wasteful. Some cities, including Los Angeles, have authorized fines for violators, but as a matter of policy, declined to do so in favor of education.

Few water districts have enforced mandatory conservation targets with financial penalties, as Sierra Madre is poised to do.

Until 2013, wells supplied all of Sierra Madre's water, and the city never joined the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the Southland's largest wholesale importer, bringing surface water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project.

Since September of 2013, Sierra Madre has relied entirely on water purchased from the San Gabriel Valley Municpal Water District.

Sierra Madre is hopeful it can again tap groundwater before the end of the year,
Capoccia said, but the city will be dependent on importing water at least two more years.

Despite the recent rains, Sierra Madre counts barely seven inches since October, far from its once-typical 25 inches a year. In California, February historically is the wettest month of the year, with precipitation declining significantly after March.

In the state's fourth straight year of below average precipitation, more districts may have to impose mandatory conservation measures. The State Water Project plans to deliver only 15 percent of historic allocations, it was announced last month, though that could be increased if late season storms bring more snow to the Sierra.

The MWD indicated that in April, it will consider cutting back allocations by 5 to 10 percent.

Some entities, however, have reported progress this winter.  Groundwater level in a test well for the Water Replenishment District  (WRD) stopped its decline, and since November has risen six feet, according to spokesman Peter Brown.  Responsible for monitoring and replenishing groundwater basins in southern Los Angeles County, WRD relies increasingly on recycled water,   for reasons that include reducing its vulnerability to drought cycles.  

In Sierra Madre, July would be the first billing cycle that could levy fines, for usage during the May-June period.

Photo Credit: Tim Graham]]>
<![CDATA[Storms Bring Some Drought Relief, Fail to Pack Sierra Snow]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 07:43:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/02-12-2015-drought-map-ca.jpg

The first significant rainfall since mid-December brought improved drought conditions to parts of California, but the February storms did not bring much-needed snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range where snowpack figures suggest no relief from the dry spell, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report.

Most of the precipitation from the subtropical storms that swept through northern California fell as rain. Snowfall was limited to higher elevations, generally above 8,000 feet. Improved conditions in Californians rely on snowpack in the Sierra Mountains, where melting snow in spring provides freshwater for an estimated 25 million residents.

"Overall, the storms had little impact on the well-below-normal snowpack conditions across the Sierra Nevada and Cascades ranges," according to the report.

California's statewide snowpack remains about 27 percent of normal for this time of year.

The storms didn't bring a snowpack punch, but parts of northwestern California and areas between San Francisco and Santa Cruz saw improved drought conditions compared to a week ago. Water runoff from the northern California storms provided about 500,000 acre feet of water flow to four major reservoirs -- Folsom, Oroville, Shasta, and Trinity -- that have been at critically low levels.

An acre-foot is a commonly used unit of volume used to measure large-scale water resources, such as reservoirs. It refers to the volume of one acre to a depth of one foot.

Nearly 100 percent of California, entering its fourth dry year, remains under some type of drought, the severity of which falls under four Drought Monitor categories -- moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. Last week, 77 percent of the state was under extreme drought, but that figure improved to 67 percent in the report released Thursday.

State climatologists estimate the state would need at least 150 percent of normal precipitation by the end of the water year, which is Sept. 30, if California has any chance of significant drought improvement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. State records show its a figure residents have had difficulty meeting, except for in December when statewide figures showed a 22-percent water-use reduction.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Water Recycling Program Brings Questions About Waste]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 00:33:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/188*120/2-6-15-garcetti+recycled+water+golf+course.JPG

Mayor Eric Garcetti along with Councilman Felipe Fuentes turned the knob Friday on the first watering system at Hansen Dam that's 100 percent recycled waste water.

The mayor touted his October directive for the city to lower its water usage by 20 percent by 2017 as an ambitious but attainable goal, the Hansen Dam project one example.

The golf course will use about 170 million gallons of the recycled water every year, an amount that's roughly the same amount of water 1000 households in LA use in a year.

The city had to fund the project to pipe in the water direct from the city's water treatment plant and the mayor said more projects are on the table.

"Roosevelt Golf Course, you're next," Garcetti said.

The water comes from all the used water from the city, it's cleaned and treated at the plant and is not drinkable, but it usable as a watering aid.

But during the news conference Friday morning on the 9th Hole of the Golf Course, an LA resident and general contractor, Scott Sterling, asked the mayor a pointed question.

"I want to keep the water on the property as much as possible," he told the mayor. "So I want to know what you're doing to help with that."

Garcetti explained his Low-Impact Development Ordinance (LID) which requires new builds to recycle their own water for their own use, but said the city was still looking at ways to do the same on a smaller-scale, for residential homeowners.

"So often I have to take the water out to the street and then it has to go through expensive processes to get recycled," Sterling said. "I want to keep the water on our property."

LA Department of Water and Power's Assistant General Manager of the Water System said it's a tough topic.

"You have to be careful," Marty Adams said. "Because you're dealing with waste streams and so it has to be done correctly."

At issue is the sanitation around using waste water without treating it. The city does offer rebates for those who change their lawns into drought-tolerant landscapes and for those who collect rainwater for later usage.

And yet while the city works to reuse water and touts lower overall usage by residents, water waste continues in some neighborhoods. The LADWP Water Conservation Response Unit said it relies on neighbors and drive-bys to catch people who water their laws between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and on their "off" days.

"We try to look into every single one," said Rick Silva, the Unit's supervisor. "But some don't have enough information to act on."

Silva said of the 1,000 complaints over the last year, only 50 were cited — and of those, only 4 faced a financial penalty.

Silva admits, though, even the financial fines have not been paid, saying, "As long as we get the change we want or get them to comply, that's the main purpose of our program and we're OK with that."

Residents who may be concerned about water waste can call 1-800-DIAL-DWP or use the My311LA app to report it.

Photo Credit: Bobbie Eng]]>
<![CDATA[Where Is Water Use Decreasing in California?]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 15:58:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Drought-generic-water-irrig.jpg

Californians met Gov. Jerry Brown' goal of a 20-percent reduction in monthly water use -- part of his drought emergency declaration in January 2014 -- for the first time in December.

But the state is entering a fourth consecutive dry year with reservoirs at critically low levels and few signs of relief due to a diminishing Sierra Nevada range snowpack -- a vital source of water for 25 million Californians.

So which communities are contributing most to the water-use reduction? Use the tool below, courtesy of NBC4 radio partner KPCC, to compare water-use figures across California.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Drought Update: Lack of Snow "the Consistent Issue"]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:27:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/02-05-2015-snow-sierra-nevada-california-january1.jpg

A lack of snowfall during what are typically the wettest months of the year in California continues to dampen hopes for drought recovery, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor Report.

The report highlights the importance of snow accumulation in the region's mountains, including the Sierra Nevada range -- the source of springtime water runoff that provides freshwater for an estimated 25 million Californians. Statewide snowpack was at just 25 percent of normal for this time of year, according to a manual survey conducted last week that confirmed readings from electronic sensors.

The snowpack survey results, described by state water officials as "dismally meager," illustrate the fact that December's drenching storms brought above-average rainfall in some parts of the state but not much snow in the Sierras.

"The consistent issue in the west this current water year is the lack of snowfall, even in the highest elevations," according to the Monitor statement released Thursday. "The majority of the precipitation has fallen as rain, which has impacted many groups who count on snow for their livelihoods.

"Many valley locations are showing adequate rain this winter, but the same cannot be said for the upper elevations and their snow totals. This has made depicting drought quite difficult, as the runoff associated with the upper elevation snowpack is vital."

The snowpack measurement is an important factor in the drought forecast because spring runoff from the Sierras flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which then feeds California's major water reservoirs. Without adequate spring runoff, those reservoirs will remain at critically low levels into the dry, hot summer months.

This week's Drought Monitor report shows a small portion of the extreme southeast corner of the state no longer in drought, but 99.84 percent of California remains under some type of drought category. The Monitor depicts drought conditions using five categories -- abnormally dry (D0), moderate (D1), severe (D2), extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4).

Nearly 40 percent of the state falls under the exceptional category.

The percentage remain largely unchanged since last week as the state endured another stretch of mostly dry conditions in January. San Francisco received no rain for the entire month for the first time in 165 years.

Figures released earlier this week show California is at 85 percent of normal precipitation for this time of year. That includes a stormy December when the state reached 131 percent of normal precipitation.

Significant rainfall is expected late this week for the northern part of California. High-elevation snowfall is possible with the storms, whic moved into extreme northern California early Thursday.

State climatologists estimate the state would need at least 150 percent of normal precipitation by the end of the water year, which is Sept. 30, if California has any chance of significant drought improvement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. State records show its a figure residents have had difficulty meeting, except for in December when statewide figures showed a 22-percent water-use reduction.


Photo Credit: NSAS]]>
<![CDATA[California Meets Water-Use Goal for First Time]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 18:13:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/drought-453835906_10+%282%29.jpg

The state's monthly water-use report card released Tuesday shows that Californians have met the state's 20-percent water-use reduction goal for the first time.

The report, a monthly snapshot of how 400 local water agencies are doing when it comes to water conservation efforts across drought-stricken California, shows Californian's reduced water-use by 22 percent in December compared to December 2013.

The reduction might be due in large part to a rainy month.  Officials at the State Water Resources Control Board said the extra rain minimized the need to water lawns.

"It reinforces what we thought all along that the extent of outdoor water use is a huge driver of water conservation and water use," board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said.

The State Water Resources Control Board began collecting and publicizing the water-use numbers as part of its ongoing conservation campaign as the state enters its fourth consecutive dry year. The board imposed restrictions on watering lawns and washing cars last summer after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the state in January 2014.

Brown asked residents to reduce water use by 20 percent, a goal that has been difficult to achieve. The closest Californians previously came to reaching that goal was in August, when water use dropped 11.6 percent compared with the previous year, according to the monthly surveys of water suppliers.


Dry conditions are still looming. Downtown San Francisco had no measurable rain in January for the first time in recorded history. A snow survey last week found the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which supply about a third of California's water, contained 12 percent of the normal water expected.

Springtime water runoff from melting snow in the Sierra range provides water for an estimated 25 million Californians.

The water board's mandatory water restrictions are set to expire in April. The board is also considering extending and expanding those rules later this month.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quake on San Andreas Fault Could Threaten Water Supply]]> Sun, 01 Feb 2015 19:45:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1030-2014-aqueduct.jpg

When an earthquake hits, there's more to worry about than meets the eye - especially in a drought.

NPR reported Saturday that a 7.8 magnitude quake on the San Andreas Fault could sever all four aqueducts at once, cutting off more than 70 percent of the water sustaining Southern California.

Professor Emeritus of Geology, San Diego State University Pat Abbott explains that much of our water supply crosses over one of the earth's most active fault systems

“We have to have the water. And it's in danger of being cut off by a major fault movement,” Abbott said.

Much of Southern California’s water comes from aqueducts in the northern part of the state. The problem is that those channels run over the San Andreas Fault.

An example of potential damage can be seen in the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, Abbott said.

“The land shifted horizontally 30 feet in 2 minutes. Well, a 30-foot horizontal offset of an aqueduct,” he said. “Boy, that's going to take some time to clean-up and cause a lot of mess in the meantime.”

Repairs could take a crucial amount of time especially when you're talking about cutting off water to countless homes and businesses.

When it comes to our water supply being in danger, costly long-term projects will be worth it, Abbott said.

“We're going to spend tremendous amounts of money and difficulty but the people of California are not going to be left to perish for lack of water,” he explained.

In the San Diego area, more water storage is possible after additions to the San Vicente Dam which is located west of the fault.

Read how the city of Los Angeles is planning to serve citizens with water in the case of such an interruption in the NPR report here.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Latest CA Snowpack Survey "Dismally Meager"]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 07:14:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/01-29-2015-drought-snowpack.JPG

California appears to be facing a fourth consecutive dry year, with water reservoirs already at critically low levels, the results of the state's second snowpack survey suggest.

Snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where spring water runoff produces a vital source of water for more than 25 million Californians, are "dismally meager," according to the Department of Water Resources. The agency conducted its second manual snowpack survey of the season Thursday, confirming the below-normal levels reported by electronic sensors.

At Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento, snowpack was at 12 percent of normal for this time of year. Statewide, levels are 25 percent of historical average, according to the water agency.

The numbers are even lower than the previous manual survey conducted in late December. January is typically one of California's wettest months of the year, but precipitation has been well below normal after a few storms brought rain and snow to the state in December.

"Unfortunately, today’s manual snow survey makes it likely that California’s drought will run through a fourth consecutive year," DWR officials said in a statement.

Heavy precipitation and cooler temperatures would be required over the next three months to provide any reason for optimism around California's water supply, according to the agency.

The snowpack measurement is an important factor in the drought forecast because spring runoff from the Sierras flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which then feeds California's major water reservoirs. Without adequate spring runoff, those reservoirs will remain at critically low levels into the dry, hot summer months.

For example, the State Water Project's principal reservoir, Lake Oroville in Butte County, contains just 41 percent of its capacity.

State climatologists estimate the state would need at least 150 percent of normal precipitation by the end of the water year, which is Sept. 30, if California has any chance of significant drought improvement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. State records show its a figure residents have had difficulty meeting.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[CA Considers Temporary Delta Dams]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 07:17:51 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/drought-453835906_10+%282%29.jpg

State water officials say they may dam parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in an emergency measure to protect freshwater used by millions of Californians.

The Department of Water Resources said Monday that if the drought persists they may build temporary rocky barriers blocking three channels on the Delta. They say the dams would decrease the amount of water released from upstream reservoirs to keep saltwater from creeping inland from the San Francisco Bay, contaminating the Delta.

The Delta provides 25 million people with drinking water and irrigates millions of acres of farmland.

Officials say that despite a wet December no major storms have hit California in January to replenish the reservoirs. Officials considered building the dams last year, but spring rainstorms made it unnecessary.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California due to critically low reservoir levels and consecutive dry years.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Exceptional Drought" Expands in Parts of CA]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:43:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/01-15-2015-chowchilla-drought-454716928.jpg

Nearly 100 percent of California remains in drought after only light to moderate rain fell in parts of the state during early January, according to this most recent report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The percentage of the state in "Exceptional Drought," the most severe of the Monitor's five categories, increased from 33 percent to nearly 40 percent since last week. Ninety-eight percent of the state is under at least one drought category, representing no change since last week.

At the start of October, more than 58 percent of the state was in "Exceptional Drought" and 100 percent of the state was under some type of drought.

Minor improvements were reported in west-central California, including Marin, Sonoma, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

"Farther east, improvement has not been as resilient in much of the Sacramento Valley," according to a Drought Monitor statement.

The state's water reservoirs have been well below normal during the three-year dry spell. Reservoirs near and north of the Sacramento Valley are above critically low levels at the start of the water year in October, but water-year-to-date totals have dropped back to near average after last month's storms brought precipitation to the region.

The disappointing state of the Sierra Nevada snowpack is another concern. Springtime runoff from the mountains provides a vital source of water for agricultural areas and heavily populated cities south of the range. "Exceptional Drought" expanded along and east of the central and southern Sierra Nevadas.

"Subnormal winter precipitation has combined with abnormal warmth to leave Sierra Nevada snowpack well short of the historic mid-January average in central and southern parts of the range," according to the Monitor statement. "Since October 1, 2014, precipitation totals are 3 inches to locally over a foot below normal from the slopes of eastern Fresno and adjacent Inyo Counties northward through eastern Nevada County."

The mountain runoff supplies about a third of the water needed by residents, agriculture and industry as it melts in the late spring and summer.

The start of 2015 marked on year since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the state and called for a 20-percent reduction in water use as the state's reservoirs reached critically low levels and Sierra snowpack diminished.

The latest Water Resources Control Board figures show Californians are having a tough time reaching that goal. Californians cut overall water use by 9.8 percent in November compared to the same period a year ago.

Click the map below for a larger view.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[2014 Temps Top SoCal Record Books: NWS]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:08:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP281311805550.jpg

Sure, it's been cold the last couple of weeks. But that didn't make up for the rest of the year -- the hottest on record in many places in Southern California.

Until a series of storms slammed the state in December, California's biggest weather story was how parched it was, and the thermometer reflected that. Average temperatures in Long Beach, Burbank, Santa Barbara and other cities in the area were never higher than in 2014, the National Weather Service said.

Cities in Ventura county, San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley were especially hot last year -- Camarillo's average temperature of 64.5 degrees was one-and-a-half degrees hotter than the previous high in 1976, according to the NWS.

Los Angeles International Airport has had one hotter year than 2014, while downtown Los Angeles only had its fifth hottest year, the NWS said, though its records date back further than other Southern California Locations.

High temperatures and very little precipitation were to blame for the hot year, meteorologists said. In late December, nearly 95 percent of the state was experiencing a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Other cities across the West experienced record temperatures last year, too.

Las Vegas averaged 72 degrees in 2014, which "smashed" the previous high of 71.2, the NWS said.

It was the same story in Death Valley's, whose average high was 94.5 degrees, a scorching new record that bested 2012 and 1934, which tied at 94 degrees.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Storms Provide "Foothold for Drought Recovery"]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:07:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/12-18-2014-drought-monitor-ca.jpg

A string of storms that marched across California this month provided enough rain to boost reservoir levels and slightly improve drought conditions after three consecutive dry years.

The state still likely needs several consecutive wet winters, but the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report offers reason for "cautious" optimism with several months left in California's wet season. This month's storms brought precipitation to most of California, pushing the Sacramento River to its highest level since Dec. 31, 2005.

Consecutive days of rain and snow led to a decrease in the percentage of the state under the Monitor's most severe drought category, called exceptional drought (D4). Last week, 55 percent of California was in the exceptional drought category. The latest report shows 32 percent of state in the D4 category.

Nearly 95 percent of the state remains under severe drought, according to the Monitor.

California's critically low water reservoirs remain well below historical average for mid-December, but Drought Monitor researchers noted "good capacity increases" of 6 to 10 percentage points in northern and central California's major reservoirs.

"It takes years to get into a drought of this severity, and it will likely take many more big storms, and years, to crawl out of it," said Jay Famiglietti, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A study of satellite data released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory earlier this week found that at the peak of the drought earlier this year, water storage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels.

"With several more months still left in the wet season, it is possible that additional storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the long-term hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build the snow pack," according to the report.

Rainfall has been trending above normal in many places so far during the 2014-2015 rain season that began July 1. As of Wednesday, downtown Los Angeles had collected 4.47 inches, more than 1.4 inches more than normal to date. A year earlier, it had collected just 0.86 inch to date. Downtown San Francisco had tallied 13.40 inches, or nearly 6.5 inches more than normal to date.

But drought improvement will depend largely on this season's precipitation in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Springtime runoff from the melting Sierra Nevada mountain range snowpack supplies water for an estimated 25 million Californians. In November, the southern Sierra had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the northern Sierra 79 percent.

The report noted that temperatures remained above normal, so more rain than snow was reported at higher elevations.

The tropical Pacfic Ocean phenomenon known as El Nino also could have a say in California's drought situation. The chance of El Nino weather conditions, which can potentially usher moisture into California, developing this winter for the Northern Hemisphere increased to 65 percent in December.

That figure represents an increase from last month's estimate of 58 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown in January declared a drought emergency, and asked Californians to cut residential water use by 20 percent -- a mark that has not been met, according to recent estimates. Farmers in the Central Valley have fallowed fields and mandatory water restrictions are in effect as California faces a fourth-consecutive dry year.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor
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<![CDATA[Water Officials Optimistic About Rain Season]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 23:22:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/flooding-generic.jpg

California water officials are optimistic that the state’s rain season is on the right track after last week’s record rainfall.

A cold front is forecast to bring more rain and mountain snow Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday will be dry, then showers will return Friday and Saturday, forecasters say.

Last week’s storms first brought showers that saturated the parched ground, followed by a heavy downpour that resulted in massive runoff.

“Winter is starting the way we were hoping it would start,” said Brando Goshi, a Metropolitan Water District policy manger.

But much more wet weather is needed to pull the state out of its severe drought.

Two critical reservoirs in Northern California, Oroville and San Luis, help feed water to the Southland. While they are still far from full, officials say they are several feet up from their near-historic lows.

"In most years, snow pack is more important at this time of year because that’s where water is held. But in this case I think some of that water got into those reservoirs and that’s going to be a good thing,"

What they are hoping is for a season of storms like last week – at least half a dozen or more – that are staggered as not to cause flooding.

"There’s a great deal of concern because where we started, but there’s no denying that’s a great start to the water supply season,” Goshi said.

<![CDATA[LA Banks 1.8 Billion Gallons of Water in Storm]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 21:10:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafile-rain-water-capture-containers.jpg

While officials continue to warn that a few days of rain won't end California's drought, one local utility was celebrating how much water they collected from Friday's heavy rain.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works tweeted the "sunny news" Saturday that it captured 1.8 billion gallons of stormwater, enough to supply 44,000 people for a year.

The county's tweets were a bright spot during the storm, which drenched parts of the area with 5 inches of rain -- at first 390 million gallons were collected at an intake center in Pacoima, they tweeted Friday morning, then 1 billion https://twitter.com/LAPublicWorks/status/543447263775707137.

Dams and water storage basins were used to capture excess water, according to the often-updated Twitter account. 

But it wasn't all drought savings they were reporting. For example, the Department's Twitter account explained as the rain fell that 30,000 cubic yards of debris clogged Lake Hughes Road near Castaic Lake, which wasn't expected to reopen until Wednesday.

Experts warn that California's historic drought will need a lot more rain to replenish depleted aquifers and restore mountain snow packs.

"We're still in a deep drought, and the rains provide a great opportunity to conserve water that we can use later," said Marty Adams, deputy assistant general manager of the water system for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

<![CDATA[El Nino Chance Increases to 65 Percent]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 16:53:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/236*120/12-05-2014-EL-NINO-sea-surface-latest_sst.jpg

The chance of El Niño weather conditions developing this winter for the Northern Hemisphere increased to 65 percent, but any hopes for drought relief during California's three-year dry spell should be tempered.

The latest figure, released Thursday by the Climate Prediction Center, represents an increase from last month's estimate of 58 percent. The tropical Pacfic Ocean phenomenon affects weather patterns and can potentially usher moisture into California, which needs about 150 percent of its normal annual rainfall to recover from the historic drought, according to experts.

If El Niño develops, forecasters said it is expected to be weak. A weak system probably would not generate enough rainfall this winter to significantly improve drought conditions in California, which recently marked its driest three years on record, the federal government's National Climatic Data Center said.

El Niño forecast updates are released on the first Thursday of every month.

Nearly 80 percent of the state is under extreme drought, the second most severe category listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor. One year ago, about 28 percent of the state was under the severe drought category.

Not all of the precipitation from this week's California storms could be included in the latest Drought Monitor report released Thursday. Along with rain and snow, drought monitors consider the water levels in reservoirs, rivers and streams, soil moisture, and dozens of other factors.

The past two months have brought several back-to-back rainstorms, and the rain in late November and early December was among the heaviest that some areas had seen in years. The system dropped widely varying amounts of rain, ranging from trace levels in some areas to 14.5 inches at Yucaipa Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains.

San Francisco saw 4.3 inches, while 1.5 inches fell on downtown Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service. The San Francisco Bay Area reached or exceeded normal annual rainfall totals for the first time in years.

The storm put downtown Los Angeles slightly above normal for the season to date. Since July 1, it has recorded 2.30 inches of rain compared with the normal average of 2.14 inches by Dec. 4.

Climatologists have stressed that California needs to see a consistent pattern of storms to move beyond its driest three years on record. Critically low reservoir levels and diminishing Sierra Nevada snowpack prompted Gov. Jerry Brown in January to declare a drought emergency and ask Californians to cut residential water use by 20 percent. California's reservoirs are at 39 percent to 60 percent of normal.

Before this week's storms, snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the northern Sierra 79 percent. Springtime runoff from the melting snowpack supplies water for an estimated 25 million Californians.

Photo Credit: NOAA
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<![CDATA[Skies Clear, But CA Drought Outlook Remains Gloomy]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 10:37:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-04-2014-drought-map-1200.jpg

Nearly all of California remains in moderate or worse drought, according to a weekly report that does not take into account all of this week's rainfall after back-to-back storms.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that 99.72 percent of the state remains in the moderate to exceptional drought category. The Monitor categorizes drought severity in four levels, ranging from moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4).

Fifty-five percent of the state is still considered in the most extreme category of drought, marking only a slight decrease since the start of the state's water year on Oct. 1.

Data for the report was gathered Tuesday so the cutoff for the drought update means not all this week's rain was considered. But it's unlikely the state would see significant relief even with all of this week's steady precipitation included in the report.

Climatologist Brian Fuchs at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska told The Associated Press that California would need to see a consistent pattern of storms to really move the state out of its three-year drought. Besides rain and snow, drought monitors also consider the water levels in reservoirs, rivers and streams, soil moisture, and other factors.

California's reservoirs are at critically low levels -- 39 percent to 60 percent of normal -- and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has been lagging. Before the Tuesday storms, the southern Sierra had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the northern Sierra 79 percent.

Springtime runoff from the melting snowpack supplies water for an estimated 25 million Californians.

California officials estimate the state would need 150 percent of its normal annual rainfall to recover from the historic dry spell. The latest storms lifted downtown Los Angeles to slightly above normal for the water year at 2.25 inches.

Gov. Jerry Brown in January declared a drought emergency, and asked Californians to cut residential water use by 20 percent. The latest figures released Tuesday by the state show that Californians managed to reduce their daily water use by only 6.7 percent in October compared to the same period last year.

As of this autumn, the state had marked its driest three years on record, the federal government's National Climatic Data Center said.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor]]>
<![CDATA[Glendora Remains on Alert]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:57:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-03-2014-storm-glendora-urban-search-rescue.jpg Glendora residents awoke to sunshine after a day of pounding rain, but homeowners remained concerned about the possiblity of mudslides in a burn area. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Wednesday Dec. 3, 2014.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA["The Hill Is Stable"]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:53:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_camarillo_gordon_noon_1200x675_366696003891.jpg Evacuation orders were lifted in Camarillo Springs, where residents were on alert Tuesday because of steady rains that soaked a burn area. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Wednesday Dec. 3, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Rain Runoff Represents Missed Opportunity]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:13:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/12-2-2014-Runoff.JPG

In a drought-plagued state begging for rain, most of what falls on urban areas of California is allowed to run off into the ocean.

Systems to capture and recycle a significant amount of rain run-off are years away, according to watershed experts, though they see progress in reducing the amount of pollution that run-off carries out to sea.

However, runoff this week was expected to deliver enough contaminants into Santa Monica Bay that public health officials issued a warning for beach-goers to avoid areas near storm channel outlets.

The warning will remain in effect at least through Thursday evening, and then be re-evaluated, according to a statement issued by Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, interim health officer for Los Angeles County.

Pollutants carried into the bay by the flood control system typically include trash, oil from roadways, and excrement from dogs whose owners failed to pick up after them.

"Our wet weather is when the largest amount of pollution gets flushed out to the bay," said Sarah Sikich, VP of the environmental organization Heal the Bay.

But surveying the beach in Santa Monica at the foot of Pico Blvd. during Tuesday's rain, as a torrent of runoff rushed out of the Pico Kenter storm drain, she saw fewer plastic bags, styrofoam cups and disposable food containers than seen in years past before many communities imposed restrictions.

Another factor is steps taken by beach communities to intercept the trash that still does get into storm drains.

Since the millennium, Santa Monica has installed several underground filtration systems in the main storm channels that empty into the bay.

"We're screening and separating out the solids so they don't go to the ocean," said Neal Shapiro, Watershed Programs Coordinator for the City of Santa Monica.

Lifting a maintenance cover in a parking lot near the pier revealed trash swirling inside the chamber filtering runoff from the city's downtown area.  It's called CDS--Continuous Deflective Separation-- and it has no moving parts, instead relying on the energy of the rushing runoff .

In the next two years, the filtration system for Pico-Kenter, the highest volume drain in Santa Monica, will be upgraded to trap more of the  solid contaminants, Shapiro said.

The Bay City has also invested in a treatment plant dubbed "SMURFF"--Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility."  It captures, treats and recycles so called "dry" runoff that comes from yard watering  and other water uses when it is not raining.

The recycled water is then put to use on municipal properties for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes.

Some of the larger sanitation and water districts also recycle sewage, often using the treated water to replenish groundwater reserves.  

SMURFF can process as much as 500-thousand gallons a day, Shapiro said, but lacks the massive storage capacity to accommodate the vastly larger surges of runoff that occur during  times of rain.

In Los Angeles county during a typical rain, as much as 10 billion gallons of rain runoff goes out to see, according to an estimate cited by Heal the Bay.

"I see the water running off and it's like, 'Boy, if we could capture that or let it get back into the ground,'" Shapiro mused.

Large-scale systems appear less feasible for now than runoff recovery on a neighborhood scale, where water can be captured with rain barrels and re-designed landscaping.

Meantime, after three years of drought, Californians could only watch most of the recent rain disappear out to sea, still carrying some trash with it.

"This is a great opportunity to raise awareness," said Sikich "Not only of the waste going into the Bay, but of the water that is so precious."

<![CDATA["Abysmal Start" to Water Year in California]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:04:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/11-20-2014-drought-monitor-map-1.jpg

What is historically the time of the year when Californians can expect the most precipitation is "off to an abysmal start" after only light to moderate rainfall since Oct. 1 that did nothing to improve drought conditions.

Precipitation was recorded in central and northern California during the last week, but not nearly enough to provide drought relief, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report. Three years of drought have left the state's water reservoirs at critically low levels and a mild start to the season in the Sierras suggests conditions might not improve during winter.

"The totals still fell short of normal and did nothing to offset the impacts of the ongoing three-year drought," according to the report released Thursday. "The current Water Year has gotten off to an abysmal start."

Rainfall since Oct. 1, the start of the water year, has totaled 10 to 35 percent of normal in areas around San Francisco categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as under "exceptional" drought conditions. Rainfall was at 20 percent of normal in exceptional drought areas around Los Angeles.

The Drought Monitor report categorizes drought severity into abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4). Nearly 80 percent of the state is under extreme to exceptional drought.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California as reservoirs levels dropped and snowpack diminished in the Sierras, a vital source of springtime water runoff shared by 25 million Californians. Farmers in the Central Valley have fallowed fields and mandatory water restrictions are in effect as California faces a fourth-consecutive dry year after a summer of record heat.

Some parts of the state can expect rainfall Thursday into Friday as a storm system develops in the Pacific.

Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor
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<![CDATA[California Drought Drives Wildlife Into Backyards]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 10:03:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/1113-2014-Drought.jpg

The chapped landscapes of California are forcing wildlife into backyards as animals expand their hunt for water to drink.

As reports of sightings rise in the parched state's fourth consecutive dry year, wildlife hospitals say they are seeing a spike in cases.  At the Bay Area's only wildlife care hotline, calls are up 20 percent from the previous year.

"These are people having raccoons digging up their yard because raccoons like the grubs that live under a well-watered yard," Alison Hermance, communications manager at WildCare Wildlife Hospital in Marin County's San Rafael, said. "These are people that are seeing deer in their yards and they hadn't seen deer in their yards…they have a food source or a water source."

The increased interactions between humans and animals can have harmful effects. Medical staff at the WildCare Wildlife Hospital recently treated an owl for a broken wing. They say he was hit by a car, trying to find food in the middle of the road.

"An animal that usually has a territory this big,” Hermance said drawing a circle. “Is all of the sudden having to go this far in order to find water especially but also food. So animals are traveling farther."

They have also seen an unusual spike of parasites in their patients, which may be caused by dehydration.

"If the animals are down because they're dehydrated, they don't have as much energy, they're not going to move around as much because they want to conserve what they do have, then the parasites can find them a lot easier,” Wildlife Assistant Galen Groff said.

At the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, staff is treating 20 percent more animals than last year.
One of the ducks receiving treatment there crashed into a shallow puddle. It would normally aim for a pond.

“(The drought) certainly is a factor because they're not finding the water that is out there normally,” said Director of Operations Janet Alexander.

Wildlife advocates say to prevent animals from wandering on your property, make sure you're not providing them access to food and water.

"If it gets drier, it's just going to get more and more likely that all of the wildlife in the area are going to gravitate to the only areas where there is water, and that's our backyard,” Hermance said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[LADWP Tests Earthquake Resistant Water Pipes]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:21:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/193*120/Japanese+Pipes.JPG

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is testing water pipes that have been very successful in Japan, even following major earthquakes. 

Los Angeles is in a constant state of repairing water pipes, with its aging and corroding 7000 mile network suffering breaks each and every day. 

With so many bursts occurring on a typical day, concerns are growing about what will happen in the event of a major earthquake.

It is widely agreed that replacing LA’s water pipes is a massive, but critical undertaking. 

"This is one of the most important, if not the most important thing that we should be doing for the city of Los Angeles," LADWP earthquake engineer Dr. Craig Davis said.

"You can get by without power if you need to, you can get by without natural gas, but you have to have water," Davis added, noting water is "absolutely essential" to daily life. 

The Northridge Earthquake in 1994 had 15 seconds of shaking, resulting in almost 1,100 burst pipes.  That translates to more than year’s worth of breaks, costing more than $40 million dollars in repairs, and leaving some residents without water for almost 2 weeks. 

Northridge was a magnitude 6.7 quake, but experts continually warn "The Big One" will be even more powerful. 

"The Big One" refers to a rupture along the San Andreas Fault, a potential 7.8 magnitude megathrust quake, with up to two minutes of shaking. 

"We expect 2-3 thousand breaks or even more," Davis said, regarding the fallout from that kind of quake. 

Those breaks represent pipes in local neighborhoods.  If our aqueducts are damaged during a San Andreas quake, 70-80%  of all the imported water to Southern California would be cut off, effecting nearly 20 million people for an unknown amount of time. 

"This is a big problem and that is a huge vulnerability that we have," Davis said. 

But there are options for improving the outlook because of a pipe that is currently available that could withstand a major quake which has been very successful for over 40 years in Japan, a country which has both more extreme seismic activity than SoCal. 

In March 2011 a 9.0 quake rocked Japan, and while the tsunami that followed covered the island nation in water, there was no reports any leaks underground. 

Davis says it the pipes design that makes that the difference.

Designed by the Kubota Corporation and manufactured in Japan, it provides more space at the joint so there is room for the parts to move.  


Davis, who has been advocating for these pipes for years, believes they could last up to 200 years in some cases, and is currently overseeing a pilot project testing them at five vulnerable locations across LA. 

The first place outside of Japan where the pipe is being tested is along Contour Driver in Sherman Oaks, and after a year there have been no issues. 

"Not only have we not seen any problems but the method of installation is much smoother than with other pipes," Davis said.

The next test site will be at Roscoe and Reseda, alongside Northridge Hospital, near the epicenter of the Northridge Quake. That installation is expected to begin next week. 

But it will be years before testing is complete and a final decision is made about using this pipe across the county, and even if gets the go-ahead it will take a very long time to replace problematic pipes.

"You can’t replace all of our pipes at once. It literally takes hundreds of years to replace all of this pipe," Davis said.

And of course, there is a price, but Davis stresses the increase is a small portion of the project. "The material cost is actually 3 times more than what we normally pay but is only 4 percent of the entire project cost," Davis said.

But in a region as earthquake prone as Southern California, and given the life-saving need for water, the LADWP official insists – the time is now.  

<![CDATA[LA Rolls Out the Rain Barrels]]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:18:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/11-12-2014-rain-barrel-la.jpg

Los Angeles will begin distributing repurposed soda syrup barrels this weekend that capture rainwater for home irrigation of plants and gardens during drought-stricken California's dry spell.

One thousand 45- and 55-gallon barrels will be distributed to preserve rainwater as California municipalities look for ways to reduce drought-related problems in a state entering its fourth-consecutive dry year. The repurposed syrup barrels, donated to Keep Los Angeles Beautiful by the Coca-Cola company, will collect water that can be used to irrigate lawns and gardens.

The free barrels are available only to Los Angeles residents who registered for rain harvesting seminars -- all of which sold out. The barrels will be distributed over five sessions in different parts of the city, beginning Saturday at Los Angeles Valley College. Other sessions are scheduled for Nov. 22 and Dec. 6, and dates for two remaining sessions have yet to be announced.

Barrel recipients will learn how to install a rain barrel and other "water harvesting" methods. Homeowners will then collect rainwater that falls on roofs and flows through gutters to the rain barrels' delivery spouts. The barrels have a tap near the base that can be opened to release the harvested water.

Residents who did not receive a free barrel as part of the pilot program can check out a do-it-yourself guide, courtesy of NBC4 radio partner KPCC.

How much rain will be collected as part of the program depends on this season's rainfall -- a rarity last winter as the state endured its driest year since California began measuring rainfall in 1849. A home with an approximately 1,000-square foot roof could provide about 9,600 gallons of runoff per year if Los Angeles receives the annual average for downtown LA of 15 inches of rain, according to Keep Los Angeles Beautiful.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that the program is an "innovative" approach that will conserve drinking water.

But any benefit from water collected in the barrels would represent a small drop in California's drought relief bucket. Significant drought relief depends largely on the Sierra snowpack, a vital source of water for California's Central Valley agriculture operations. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency as low reservoir levels and decreased Sierra snowpack led to farmers fallowing fields in the Central Valley region and mandatory water restrictions.

Forecasters are expecting a warm winter in California after a summer of record heat. California historically sees most of its rain for the year from November through February and early spring months, but even above-normal precipitation throughout the state is not likely to improve conditions because of widespread extreme deficits and what could be a warm winter.

Forecasters also are assessing the probability for El Nino, the Tropical Pacific weather phenomenon that affects weather patterns. Strong El Nino patterns draw moisture into California, but a weak El Nino would probably not generate enough rainfall to affect drought levels.

The latest estimated place the chance of El Nino at 58 percent.

Photo Credit: Board of Public Works LA]]>
<![CDATA[Minor Drought Improvement After Season's First Rainfall]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:14:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/209*120/11-06-2014-drought-monitor-map-2.jpg

The first significant rainfall of the season resulted in greener lawns and more water in some streams, but only minor improvements to California's drought situation as the state enters its fourth consecutive dry year.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report shows a slight reduction in the percentage of the state in moderate to exceptional drought, the most severe of the the monitor's five categories. About 55 percent of the state remains under exceptional drought, down three percentage points from last week.

Nearly 100 percent of the state remains under moderate to severe drought.

Two to 3 inches of rain fell in some parts of Northern California last week, but the report serves as a reminder that drought relief will require more than a brief break in the state's three-year dry spell. Drought problems were exacerbated during a summer of record heat and a late-summer heat wave.

The moderate to heavy rains last week in parts of California contributed to stream flows and "greening" of smalls plants and grasses -- a cosmetic improvement that does not indicate deep soil moisture. Significant drought improvement will depend largely on snowfall in the Sierras, a source of water for the state's critically low reservoirs and agriculture operations in the drought-stricken Central Valley.

"During the past two months precipitation amounts for Del Norte, Siskiyou, Humboldt, Trinity and Northern Shasta Counties have been 150-250 percent of normal," according to the Drought Monitor report.

Forecasters also are assessing the potential for El Nino, the Tropical Pacific weather phenomenon that affects weather patterns. Strong El Nino patterns draw moisture into California, but a weak El Nino would probably not generate enough rainfall to affect drought levels.

The latest estimate places the chance of El Nino at 58 percent, but conditions are forecast to be weak. The El Nino forecast was at 80 percent in June.

Weather conditions and snowpack are critical to solving the state's water woes, and a ballot measure that Gov. Jerry Brown touted as part of the long-term solution went before voters this week. On Tuesday, voters approved Proposition 1, a nearly $7.6 billion bond measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

In January, Brown declared a drought emergency as low reservoir levels and decreased Sierra snowpack led to farmers fallowing fields in the Central Valley region and mandatory water restrictions. The next month, lawmakers fast-tracked legislation a bond funding for public works projects that Brown said will help the state better prepare for future droughts.

The water bond funds are part of work that Brown said began when he was first governor of Calfiornia, from 1975 to 1983. Those terms also happened to be during the the state's last major drought, a problem that Brown referred to as "work for a four-term governor."

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor]]>
<![CDATA[SF Uses Least Water of Any City in State]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 08:43:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP36505113488.jpg

San Francisco has a right to be smug for a change.

In drought-ravaged California, its 837,000 official residents use the least water of anyone in the state.

The average San Franciscan pours out 45.7 gallons of water a day, according to the State Water Resources Board, which released per-capita totals on Tuesday.

This may always be the case: The fact that San Francisco is in a relatively cool climate, with small backyards and little garden space to irrigate means that much less water is needed than in other arid places with big yards.

The San Francisco Chroniclenotes this also means San Francisco is ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing for possible urban daily use caps of 55 gallons a day.

East Palo Alto, South San Francisco and Daly City also received high marks for using small amounts of water.

Water users in San Diego and near Sacramento were among the biggest users of water, with little in the way of reductions seen despite the drought.

Photo Credit: AP]]>