<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Running Dry]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/feature/running-dry http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 24 Jul 2014 01:33:07 -0700 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 01:33:07 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[South Bay Water District to Hire Water Cops]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 05:42:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/tap1.jpg

It's official, the so-called "water cops" are coming to the South Bay. The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board unanimously voted to spend up to $500,000 to hire five to 10 new water cops Tuesday night.

The water cops will respond to complaints of water waste and work to increase the district's overall water conservation goal of 20 percent.

"It's a reminder that it's not a business as usual year. This is an exceptional drought, we have to take exceptional action," said Deputy Administrative Officer Teresa Alvarado.

Their official term will be decided in the future. For now, the district is calling them "water educators" because they won't actually write tickets or enforce anything.

Instead, they'll investigate claims, teach conservation, and report chronic water wasters to that person's water company.

"(The companies) are the ones that enforce any ordinances the city or private retailer has in that area," Alvarado said.

Water Use Efficiency Manager Jerry De La Piedra says they did research to determine if the water educators were a good idea.

"I would say there's studies that have shown education does lead to water savings and so we will continue to do that," he said.

Arborist Mark Barton disagrees, and thinks the $500,000 should be spent on broader education. He suggested PSAs and signs on buses.

"I think we've got two million people in the South Bay that need to be educated, and from what I can see most people don't know how to water a tree," Barton said.

He believes showing people proper watering methods can save them hundreds of gallons of water.

"If you take the combination of mulch and drip irrigation, you can cut your water use 30-70 percent."

The new "water educators" are expected to start in late-August. The district will start hiring people soon. Alvarado says the money for the positions comes from reserve funds, and won't immediately affect rates.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Cities Consider Tough New Water Waste Rules]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 06:17:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP223500730484.jpg

The cities of Pasadena and Arcadia are considering emergency water restrictions in response to the historic state drought.

The plans come as the state last week imposed tight restrictions on residents with the threat of $500 a day fines for water wasters.

Pasadena's considering limiting outdoor watering to three days a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during summer months. Officials would also require water leaks to be fixed within 72 hours.

The city of Arcadia has a similar plan being considered.

"The city believes it’s important for everyone conserve water," said Eric Klinkner, the Pasadena Water and Power chief deputy general manager. "These new regulations will ensure that everyone in the state will join Pasadena residents in this important effort."

Pasadena is considering:

  • No watering outdoors between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., except with a hand-held container or hose with a shut-off nozzle.
  • No watering during periods of rain.
  • No excessive water flow or runoff onto pavement, gutters or ditches from watering or irrigating landscapes or vegetation of any kind.
  • No washing down paved surfaces unless for safety or sanitation, in which case a bucket, a hose with a shut-off nozzle, a cleaning machine that recycles water or a low-volume/high-pressure water broom must be used.
  • No washing vehicles except by using a hand-held bucket or similar container or hose equipped with a water shut-off nozzle.

Some Pasadena residents are already doing there part to conserve water.

"We try to cut back on long showers in the house, baths as well," Pasadena homeowner Dana Crisp said. "Not fill the tub all the way up, which we used to prior to this water situation."

A complete list of Pasadena’s water waste restrictions is available at PWPweb.com/WaterWaste

Fines for repeat offenders can be up to $500 per violation for residential customers, and up to $1,000 per violation for all non-residential accounts.

Pasadena city officials will consider their proposal on July 28. If approved, it will go into effect August 1. 

Arcadia's water proposal includes:

  • No hose watering of lawns and sidewalks.
  • Recycled water only used to clean or fill decorative fountains.
  • Drinking water served only by request in restaurants and cafes. 

Arcadia's plan can be seen here.

Arcadia city officials will consider the proposal August 5.

Beverly White and Samia Khan contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Urged to Maintain Lawns, Save Water]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:41:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/glendora+drought+web.PNG

As California officials urge residents to cut down on their water usage, one Southern California couple found itself stuck between being fined for saving water and being fined for using it.

Laura Whitney Korte and Michael Korte received a letter from Glendora Police's code enforcement on Tuesday to take care of their browning front lawn.

"This I assume is the goal and if we don't reach this within 60 days we'll be fined or subject to criminal action by the city," Laura Whitney Korte said.

The letter reminds homeowners that "limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green."

"Keep all vegetation watered, mowed, trimmed and maintained," the letter reads, calling dead or dry lawns a potential public nuisance.

The Kortes had been saving water by watering their lawn just twice a week. In response to the ongoing statewide drought, California Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback in water use. On Tuesday, state water regulators voted to approve fines of up to $500 a day for residents who publicly waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing.

"I felt so confused," Laura Whitney Korte said, adding the couple has tried to call the city twice after receiving the letter, but has received no response.

Glendora Mayor Judy Nelson called the incident a "misunderstanding."

"Our water conservation officers are there to help them figure out how to still have a beautiful yard without using up too much water," Nelson said.

A new letter being circulated to Glendora residents emphasizes the city's commitment to combating the drought but again reminds homeowners to maintain their lawns for public health and safety reasons. The new letter does not mention fines for residents who do not comply.

Southern California residents may qualify for rebates for installing water-efficient sprinklers and appliances.  

<![CDATA[Water Agencies Find Further Conservation Gains to Be Elusive]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:57:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/KNSD_Water_Wise_San_Diego_052009_06_mezzn_448x336.jpg

The threat of punishing water wasters with $500 penalties has caught Californians' attention, but officials of Los Angeles County's two largest municipal water departments see other ways to encourage conservation without resorting to fines.

Prohibitions against water waste, to be imposed statewide next month by the California Water Resources Control Board, have already been in place in Long Beach since March, and in the city of Los Angeles since adopted in 2008 during the last drought.
Los Angeles issued $300 fines to repeat offenders from 2009-12, according to the Department of Water and Power, but none since then.  The city of Long Beach has not issued any fines for water waste.
"It's never been our approach to want to be water cops," said Kevin Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department, which has focused on educaton and persuasion, including a
rebate of up to $3,500 for replacing a lawn with drought tolerant landscaping.  
"Peer pressure and having the community help each other out is the way to go," he said.
During the last drought, both Los Angeles and Long Beach were able to achieve water use cuts of close to 20 percent, the goal Gov. Jerry Brown requested anew last January when he proclaimed the current drought emergency.
Both cities report water consumption per person near 100 gallons a day, much less than in much of the rest of California.
But further reductions in water use have proven more elusive this year, in part due to weather that has been significantly warmer, averaging 4.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
In May, which was hit with two heat waves, Long Beach was unable to reduce water consumption from levels during the previous May, and water use in Los Angeles actually increased 2.4 percent, according to figures provided by the cities.
Nevertheless, officials in both cities express confidence that outreach programs will encourage their consumers to find further water savings.
Los Angeles has increased its lawn replacement incentive to a maximum of $6,000, according to Penny Falcon, DWP's water  conservation policy manager.  She noted the department is also mailing notifciations to all its water customers to spell out the permitted watering days - three a week, but which three depends on whether the address is even (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday) or odd (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
DWP staffers known as water conservation response units investigate reports of sprinkler runoff, hardscape hosing,  and other water waste. Since 2013, DWP has received 622 reports of
violations, conducted 235 field inspections, mailed 378 notifications and found 21 repeat offenders, but no three-time offenders, according to the DWP's Michelle Vargas.
How the new statewide regulations will be enforced was not spelled out Tuesday during the vote of approval by members of the Water Resources Control Board.
"I don't think they're planning to go out and ask us and local police to turn into water cops," said Wattier of Long Beach. "I think the main reason they did this up to $500 a day fine was to get people's attention."
Given the level of media attention, Wattier thinks it has, and believes increased awareness is a necessary first step to getting Californians to think about conservation every time they use water.
"The State Board's action sends a strong messsage to Californians and local water agencies that it's time to get serious about saving water," said Marcie Edwards, LADWP general manager, in a statement released Wednesday.
The day after the vote, in another bid for increased awareness, California's Water Resources Department unveiled a new public service video starring popstar Lady Gaga, encouraging Californians to conserve.
Wattier approves.
"She makes a good spokesperson," he said.
Stored water reserves have largely buffered Southern California from drought impacts already being felt north of the Tehachapi Mountains, particularly in San Joaquin Valley farming communities.
But Wattier warned that, at this rate, as much as half the reserves will be drawn down by the end of this year.  Absent increased conservation, a fourth straight  drier than normal  winter is expected to result in water surcharges as an economic incentive to cutback. 
<![CDATA[SoCal Water Waste]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:57:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/water+1.jpeg 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.]]> <![CDATA[Lady Gaga Joins Water Conservation Effort]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:55:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/483499663.jpg

Lady Gaga wants her little monsters in California to save a little H2O.

The "Artpop" singer has partnered with the State of California's drought awareness program Save Our Water to release a public service announcement asking Californians to do their part when it comes to conserving water at home. 

"I had the honor of shooting my video at California landmark Hearst Castle and while I was there I learned about the necessity of water conservation during this drought," Gaga explains in the 17-second video posted to the Save Our Water website

The Hearst Castle in San Simeon is used as a location in the video for Gaga's song "G.U.Y. (Girl Under You)," and features the singer (real name Stefani Germanotta) cavorting across the famous manision's extensive grounds and ornate swimming pools. 

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"We’re thrilled Lady Gaga has joined the effort to Save Our Water," said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources. "Conservation has always been a Californian value, but in this drought regular conservation isn’t enough -- we must take extraordinary measures to save water."

California Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback statewide on water usage and the State Water Resources Control Board this week introduced fines of up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses. 

More than 36 percent of California is categorized as in "exceptional" drought, the most severe of the U.S. Drought Monitor's five categories.

Watch Lady Gaga's Save Our Water P.S.A. above, and check out the "G.U.Y" music video featuring Hearst Castle (and a few of the cast members of the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills") below. Mobile users can view the "G.U.Y" video here.   

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Outdoor Water Waste Is Banned Statewide]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 06:41:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/230*120/leaking-faucet.jpg

In an unprecedented action, statewide restrictions on outdoor water uses have been approved by California's Water Resources Control Board in response to the drought approaching its fourth year.

The decision came after hours of public comment and late afternoon revisions worked out with staff. The language must still be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a review that could take up to 10 days.

The regulations would forbid:

  • Hosing off hardscape
  • Hose washing a vehicle without a shut-off nozzle
  • Irrigation runoff
  • Fountains that do not recycle.

Violations would be punishable by a fine up to $500. Enforcement would be left to local agencies. The regulations are expected to take effect by the beginning of next month.
"We're in an emergency situation," said Felicia Marcus, board chair.

The new regulations would also require every water district to implement its water shortage contingency plan. Several dozen districts that do not already have such a plan would be given 30 days to limit outdoor irrigation to two days per week.

Restrictions on outdoor water waste have already been imposed by some water districts, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  Water conservation measures adoped in Los Angeles six years ago during the last drought have never been lifted.

The Los Angeles ordinance authorizes residential fines up to $300 for water waste, but no fines have been imposed the past year. The DWP prefers to use education and persuasion to prevent repeat violations, according to Michelle Vargas, a DWP spokeswoman.

The board action comes six months after Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed a drought emergency and requested a voluntary cutback in water use of 20 percent.

Few areas have been able to cut back that much.  In fact, a report presented at the Water Board meeting found that overall water use in California increased 1 percent in May. The report also found water use varied widely in different areas of the state. Usage increased most notably in Southern California coastal communities and the northeastern part of the state.

In the past six years, DWP customers have reduced per capita water use by 17 percent.  But this past year, it creeped back up 5 percent, Vargas said.   

Storage in reservoirs has largely spared Southern California from direct effects of the drought.  There has been more impact north of the Tehachapi Mountains, particularly on agriculture in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley.

The drought has cost the agriculture industry $1.5 billion, representing a net revenue loss of 3 percent, according to a newly released study by UC Davis.  The study found that a greater
impact was avoided by drawing on groundwater reserves, but warned that this is not an unlimited resource and at some point must be replenished.  

"I think for this year the state is being about aggressive enough," said Jay Lund, Director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Studies.  "Next year, if the drought continues - and it's a fair chance it will continue - then we'll have to become much more aggressive. I think it's important to sort of stage conservation as things get worse."

Among future steps anticipated by the Water Board is requiring districts to repair leaks in pipes, estimated to drain 10 percent of the water that passes through them, and even more in some older, less well maintained systems.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Los Feliz Golf Course Reopens with Water Saving System]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 12:59:13 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/golf+los+feliz+drought.jpg

California’s drought has dried up several opportunities for outdoor fun, but some locations have made adjustments to keep recreation rolling this summer season.

Golfers at the Los Feliz Municipal Golf Course have had to putt around construction for months as improvements were made both on the green, and under it, in an effort to save water.

The grand re-opening of the course Monday introduced a fully automated recycled water system throughout the 15-acre facility. Six acres of thirsty grass have also been replaced by drought resistant landscaping, officials said.

Officials at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said, all told, 5.5 million gallons of water will be saved annually due to the changes. The water saved would be enough to fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools or "enough drinking water for about 170 Los Angeles residents to use for an  entire year," Jim McDaniel, senior assistant general manager of Water Systems  for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said.

L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge was among those who attended the relaunch of the course, and he reiterated the importance of saving water in the midst of California’s water shortage.

“We have to conserve water,” LaBonge said. “We have before we gotta do it again in a more meaningful way the drought has really affected us.”

Officials said the Los Feliz course is now the sixth golf course in Los Angeles running on recycled water.

The recycled water comes from the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant and is funneled through the colorful Purple Pipe Network, which also serves local parks and hospitals.

More has to be done, however, to achieve the DWP’s goal of recycled water making up 10 percent of water use. Current numbers put the total at around 1 to 2 percent.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Chance of Rain, Thunderstorms in Southland]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 09:28:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/209*120/sunrise+july15+clouds+la+skyline.jpg

Southern California was seeing something of a rarity Monday as temperatures dipped and muggy conditions began to rise: a bit of rain.

Light showers were reported early Monday for parts of a drought-stricken region that just completed one of its driest rain seasons on record.

Monsoon conditions were moving into the Southland, and with it comes the possibility of thunderstorms. Areas mostly affected by the conditions would be the mountains and deserts, which could see rain into Tuesday.

“But some of these storms will drift into the inland valleys over the afternoon and evening hours,” said NBC4 meteorologist Crystal Egger.

The stormy weather was expected to force its way into the area this afternoon and evening.

Temperatures were expected in the 80s and 90s inland, 70s on the coast, and up to the 100s in desert areas. A slight decrease in temperatures would likely be nullified by a significant increase in humidity.

“Humidity is going up, so it’s going to be just as uncomfortable out there,” Egger said.

Clouds blanketed most of Southern California during the morning ahead of a hot and humid day. Light rain was reported early Monday in Rancho Cucmonga and nearby mountain communities. The showers might move into the San Gabriel Valley, but significant rainfall is not likely.

The monsoon conditions are expected to last through Wednesday.

“Anyone planning outdoor activities in the mountains and deserts during the next few days should carefully monitor the latest national weather service forecast and statements due to the potential hazards associated with thunderstorms,” according to a weather statement.

The chance of rain comes after one of Los Angeles’ worst rain seasons on record ended on June 30. Between July 1, 2013 and the end of June, just 6.08 inches of rain was recorded in downtown Los Angeles. An average rain season is just under 15 inches.

About three-fourths of California is categorized in Extreme to Exceptional drought, which brings the threat of rapid wildfire spread, water supply issues and stressed crops.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Drought, Minimum Wage Prompt Restaurant Food Price Hikes]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:02:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/In-n-Out-Burger.jpg

Your next trip to a fast food restaurant may cost you more.

A number of fast food chains are saying the double-whammy of drought and minimum wage increases are forcing them to raise prices on many of their most popular menu items.

Whenever Southern Californians enter the debate over the best hamburger, In-N-Out is almost always in the conversation.

But you’ll have to pony up an additional 15-cents for the famous Double-Double.

In-N-Out confirmed prices for hamburgers and cheeseburgers have also been raised by a dime. The popular chain blames the ongoing California drought in part for the hikes.

Beef prices have crept upward as the U.S. supply has thinned. Other burger chains are dealing with the same issues. McDonalds says prices at some franchises could rise by as much as 3-percent, and that is making it harder to find items to fill their "dollar menus."

McDonald’s dollar menu is now known as the "Dollar Menu & More" while Wendy’s now calls its budget list the new "Right Price, Right Size" menu. Most items on those range from a buck to two-dollars.

Fatburger says it too is feeling the rising cost of beef.

Fatburger confirmed burger prices there will likely inch up in the near future. And price hikes don’t stop at burger joints.

The Chipotle Restaurant chain says prices of chicken and beef dishes are headed up for the first time in three years.

Price hikes will likely vary with location. The price pressure isn’t coming from just drought.

Both Denny’s and Jack-in-the-Box tell Bloomberg News the minimum wage hikes mean modestly higher menu prices at some of its California restaurants.

All of this makes it harder to pay for that midnight snack with spare change you find in the couch cushions or the car floor. And there is no relief for that morning cup of coffee either. Starbucks announced price hikes of anywhere from 5-cents to 20-cents.

  • McDonalds
    Prices at some franchises could go up as much as 3 percent. According to Bloomberg News McDonald's is rebranding its "Dollar Menu" into the "Dollar Menu and More."
  • Chipotle
    Chipotle is increasing prices for the first time in three years. Price hikes will vary by location.
  • In-N-Out
    In-N-Out raised the cost of its hamburgers and cheeseburgers by a dime. The Double-Double jumped 15 cents to $3.45. French fries were unchanged but soft drinks went up a nickel.
  • Starbucks
    The coffee giant is increasing the prices of its drinks by 5 to 20 cents.
  • Dunkin' Donuts
    J.M. Smucker recently announced a 9 percent increase in coffee prices that will affect Dunkin' Donuts packaged coffee sold in grocery stores. This increase is specific to package coffee sold in grocery stores, not at Dunkin' Donuts restaurants. The company said it is currently holding conversations with domestic franchisees about a modest increase in coffee prices.
  • Jack in the Box
    Due to minimum wage, Jack in the Box is considering price hikes. Bloomberg News reported a price hike between 1 percent and 1.4 percent at some restaurants.
  • Denny's
    Denny’s said it began price increases in California as of July 1, 2014.
  • Fatburger
    Fatburger North America Inc., tells NBC4 prices are likely to rise soon. They did not disclose the exact amount.
  • Subway
    Subway tells NBC4 it raised the price of turkey and tuna sandwiches by 25 cents in February 2014. It says no other price hikes were instituted this year.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said all footlong Subway sandwiches were $5 in September 2013 and now range from $5 to $8.50. The September prices were part of a month-long promotion.

Sarah Zheng and Julia Bakerink contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Drought Creates Extreme Fire Danger, Low Water Reserves]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 03:15:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lake+mathews+drought.PNG

The California drought has created extreme fire danger and decreased water reserve levels in parts of Southern California.

San Bernardino County firefighters and inmate work crews spent Monday clearing dry branches and brush in Lytle Creek.

"I don't want the darn place to go up (in flames.) That's for sure," Lytle Creek resident John Bartfay said.
Moisture content levels for vegetation are at all-time lows.

"The energy release when fire gets into those areas has been significantly higher," Kyle Hauducoeur of San Bernardino County Fire.

The drought has also led to significantly lower water reserves. Lake Mathews in Riverside County can hold 182,000 acre feet of water at full capacity. It currently has about 78,000 acre feet.

"We've actually been here for the last 11 years, this is probably one of the worst times we've seen it," Lake Mathews resident Natalie Brewer said.

Some residents in Hemet and Temecula Valley are taking advantage of water wise programs in which they get two dollars a square foot to tear up water-guzzling grass and replace it with water-conserving landscaping such as plants and tree material that “can actually be weaned off water” after a few years.


<![CDATA["Exceptional" Drought Expands in California]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 18:25:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/drought+monitor+july3+updates.jpg

The most severe category of drought expanded in California during the past week at the start of what looks to be a hot, dry summer for a state facing a significant dry spell.

"Exceptional" drought conditions expanded to more than 36 percent of California, a four-percentage point increase since last week, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report. The Monitor's drought levels are Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

Exceptional drought conditions (pictured below) expanded during the past week in Ventura, LA and much of Orange counties, according to the Monitor. No part of California was listed in the Exceptional drought category at the start of 2014, but months without significant rainfall and a decreased Sierra snowpack -- a vital source of water for the state -- led to the drought expansion.

About 79 percent of the state is under Extreme to Exceptional drought, an increase of about 3 percentage points since last week. A large swath of the Central Coast and Central Valley has been hardest hit by the drought as the state just completed its warmest and third-driest winter on record. 

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency because of critically low levels at the state's reservoirs, due to disappointing rainfall totals and snowpack that measured 16 percent of average.

This week's Drought Monitor report was issued a day after the National Weather Service announced that downtown Los Angeles recorded its seventh-driest rain season since record-keeping began in 1877. Just 6.08 inches of rain fell during between July 1, 2013 and June 30.

Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor]]>
<![CDATA[Winemaker Stands by "Water Witching" to Help During Drought]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 15:25:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/0702-2014-WaterWitch.jpg

Several California residents are turning to an ancient practice called dowsing to help find water during the severe drought.

The practice, also known as "water witching," resorts to using items like copper rods and prisms. It's a method Napa Valley winemaker Marc Mondavi uses.

"Well, they've helped me find a lot of water in California," Mondavi said. "I'm not just doing Napa Valley, I've done wells throughout northern California. I've gone as far as Mexico."

Mondavi said his services as a "water witch" are in demand as California's historic drought continues. He charges $500.

"There's no guarantees," he said. "Although I'm more than 95-percent successful."

Skeptics point out that the Earth is more than 70 percent water, so finding it is not difficult.

One of those skeptics is James Underdown, who heads the Center for Inquiry and the Independent Investigations Group in Los Angeles.

"Through the years we've tested many dowsers," Underdown said. "None of them have been successful in a scientifically controlled test."

Underdown said that when it comes to the movement of dowsing rods, there is a "down-to-Earth" explanation.

"There's something called the ideomotor effect, which says, that the unconscious mind can effect the muscles and move muscles without one being conscious of it."

Underdown said it is the same effect that moves a planchette across a Quija board.

Mondavi, however, questions his skeptics.

"It's not a science," he said. "Scientists don't understand this. Therefore, they don't believe in it."

Meanwhile, Underdown's group is offering a $100,000 challenge to anyone who can prove this version of paranormal ability.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[LA Ends Rain Season With Dismal Total]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:52:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/downtown-la-skyline-sunrise-aug161.jpg

Los Angeles' rain season ended with the seventh-driest rainfall total for the period in more than 130 years as the state enters a hot, dry summer under a drought emergency.

Just 6.08 inches of rain was recorded in downtown Los Angeles for the rain season, between July 1, 2013 and June 30. That goes down as the seventh-driest rain season since record-keeping began in downtown LA in 1877, but slightly better than the previous rain season total of just 5.85 inches.

The two seasons are the driest back-to-back seasons on record, according to the National Weather Service. Over the past three rain seasons, downtown LA is running about 2 feet below normal.

The average for the rain season is 14.93 inches -- a distant aspiration in a drought-stricken state that just completed its warmest and third-driest winter on record. Significant rainfall deficits for the past season were also recorded in San Francisco to the Central Valley and south to San Diego,

About 33 percent of the state faces "Exceptional Drought" conditions, including a large swath of the Central Valley region, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. "Exceptional" is the most severe of the Monitor's drought levels, which include Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

Nearly 77 percent of the state is categorized in Extreme/Exceptional drought, which brings the threat of rapid wildfire spread this summer, stressed crops and water supply issues.


<![CDATA[Wildfires Threaten Rolling Blackouts Across State ]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:12:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/powerlines5.JPG

Tinderbox conditions exacerbated by a historic California drought could put power lines across the state at risk of failing this summer, officials said.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's power grid, warned Friday that extreme heat could cause "rolling blackouts" this summer, meaning some places could see no power for periods of time.

"Fires in particular are going to be a problem this year," said Steve Berberich, the chief executive officer of Cal-ISO.

Wildfires burn underneath the transmission lines and cause power outages, Berberich said.

If there are no devestating fires, then there is enough power available for the summer, but officials are urging the public to conserve power usage.

"It's a great time right now to go and put LED lights in," said Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission, referring to the low-energy bulbs.

Officials suggested setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher.

Federal officials in May said that all of California remains in "severe" drought or worse. The conditions are the most extreme in the U.S. Drought Monitor's 15-year history.

Three months ago, 90 percent of the state was considered in severe to exceptional drought. A year earlier, that figure was less than half of the state.

<![CDATA[Hetch Hetchy Below 65 Percent Capacity]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 05:58:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/041014-HetchHetchy.jpg

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission gave its mid-year water supply update Monday and announced that the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System storage is at less than 65 percent capacity.

The water system storage is at 64.5 percent of maximum storage capacity and all available snowpack has melted as of this week, SFPUC officials said.

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park can store up to 117 billion gallons of drinking water that is used for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System that provides water for 2.6 million San Francisco area customers.

In what is one of the worst droughts in recent years, the SFPUC asked customers to reduce water consumption by 10 percent at the start of the year. Since then, about 1.4 billion gallons of water have been saved, which is 17 percent of the SFPUC's year-end goal of saving 8 billion gallons.

According to the SFPUC, if conservation trends continue there will be less of a chance of mandatory water rationing.

SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly Jr. said in a statement Monday that water rationing is still a possibility, "Every customer needs to redouble their conservation efforts so we can stretch water supplies into 2015 and beyond."

A summer water conservation campaign has kicked off and in an effort to entice more saving, the SFPUC is increasing rebate amounts for replacing old toilets, urinals and washing machines starting in July.

Customers are asked to evaluate water consumption at home and work and try to take shorter showers, turn off running taps, run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine, limit outside watering and other water-saving measures.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Upcoming Fire Season to Be "Incendiary," Experts Say]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 20:40:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/BrushFiresJune20.JPG

Los Angeles officials are concerned about the upcoming fire season, citing an increase in wildfires this year and the ongoing drought in California as warning signs of a dangerous few months ahead.

So far this year, Southern California has seen two big fires, in the Glendora and Azusa areas, and in the foothills above Rancho Cucamonga.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press conference Friday that the area may not get any significant rainfall for another three to six months.

"We’re exceptionally dry, we haven’t been this dry in decades," Patzert said. "The situation is definitely incendiary."

Since January, firefighters have fought more than 2,300 fires throughout the state. That’s about 300 more fires than the same time period last year, and the state fire protection department said about 200 new wildfires have broken out in the past week.

Officials said clearing the brush around homes is crucial to protecting them from fires. Houses need what firefighters call "defensible space," a buffer between the house and brush surrounding it, which should be kept "lean, clean and green."

LA County Deputy Fire Chief John Todd encouraged people to remove flammable items from their homes. Wood piles, patio furniture and even brooms can easily ignite if an ember takes hold, Todd said.

Wildfires are likely to occur in areas with old vegetation that have not burned in a while, said Richard Minnich, an earth sciences professor at the University of California at Riverside.

The older the vegetation, the more fuel it provides for a fire. Older vegetation also takes up more water, Minnich said, and easily dries itself out.

"It’s the combination of extra energy and dry vegetation," Minnich said. "What you need to do is look at a map, find out which areas haven’t burned in a while."

Areas with old brush are highly flammable and likely to burn soon. Minnich said an area north of Monrovia and the eastern half of the San Bernandino Mountains have not had major fires in decades and are at high risk.

<![CDATA[Food Prices Rise During Severe Drought]]> Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:41:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/farmers1.JPG

Food prices are rising as California is seeing its driest year on record and farmers are having to rely more on costly irrigation to grow their crops.

Food prices rose half a percent in May, the largest hike since August 2011, according to the US Labor Department.

In April, Timothy Richards, a professor of agribusiness at Arizona State University who conducted research on probable crop price increases stemming from the drought, told CNBC that lettuce and avocados would see considerable cost increases.

In Southern Cailfornia, some farmers talked about how they're coping with the drought.


Ray Graesser, the owner of the Temecula Berry Co. has managed to stave off price increases. His farm has managed to keep the cost of a pint of blueberries, for example, at $5 for the past 10 years.

But there's a downside.

"We've had to irrigate more often," he said. "So it kind of eats into the profit."

Produce buyer and Corona resident Delaney Forsythe complains about the prices.

"They're a lot higher than normal and produce hasn't been as good of quality either," she said.

The drought is to blame. California's Central Valley is hard hit by the drought as much of the state's produce is grown there and it is among the nation's most productive farming regions. If the area sees no rain in the foreseeable future, food prices could skyrocket.

"A drought situation is just terrible for everyone," Graesser said.

Experts say that El Nino will likely return this summer after a five-year absence, bringing rain and hope to many in California.

<![CDATA[Two Hatcheries' Entire Fish Stock to be Evacuated]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 12:20:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rainbow-Trout.jpg

The California Fish and Wildlife Department is evacuating all fish from two of its hatcheries outside of Sacramento to avoid "catastrophic fish losses" that could arise due to increasing water temperatures this summer.

Rainbow trout from the American River Hatchery, as well as salmon and steelhead from the Nimbus Hatchery, are expected to be moved out to lakes around the state by the end of this week. This is the first time the entire stocks of both hatcheries have had to be evacuated, according to a statement from the department.

The department estimates that water temperatures in the hatcheries will exceed 78 degrees this summer, making it too hot for the young fish to survive to maturity. While there are measures in place that could help lower water temperatures under normal circumstances, California’s massive drought has dried up their chances of working.

Normally in the face of high water temperatures, the hatcheries could pull cold water from the depths of the nearby Folsom Lake. This year though, the drought has rendered the lake too warm to draft water from.

While the fish are planned to be released in their normal locations, the timeframe for release has had to be pushed six months ahead of the normal schedule of February. This means the released fish could have more trouble surviving out in the wild.

"We will track all changes involved in the evacuation and evaluate how fish react to being released early," said Dr. William Cox, CDFW State Hatchery Program Manager, in the statement. "Ultimately we could develop new release strategies based on what we learn."

According to the statement, the remaining 20 state-managed hatcheries are expected to make it through the summer months and into the winter season without having to evacuate fish.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Environmentalists Offer Plan to Stretch CA Water]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 22:35:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/020514-sun-drought.jpg

Drought-plagued California could stretch its available water supply as much as 30 percent  by making more effective use of existing resources, according to a new analysis released by the Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council.


The study projects gleaning as much as 14 million acre-feet a year, enough to slake the thirst of every city in the state.

The water would be found by expanding use of such existing strategies as conservation, water recycling, rainwater capture, and more efficient agricultural irrigation techniques.  Agriculture accounts for some three-fourths of the water consumed in the state.


"We have an unprecedented opportunity to do more with less, and we need to take every possible step to do so," said Robert Wilkinson, professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Barbara and

report co-author. 


In January, after the driest calendar year in the state's history, Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed a statewide drought emergency, and called on Californians to reduce water usage by 20 percent.


"As climate change brings more extreme weather, including drought, ramping up forward thinking solutions now will help us be more resilient," said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, in a statement issued in conjunction with the report, entitled The Untapped Potential of California's Water Supply.  "With widespread adoption of available water conservation and efficiency improvements, demand can be met more readily, less expensively, and with less pressure on our tapped-out rivers and groundwater basins."


Since the early 20th century, sustaining Southern California's population growth and agricultural industry has required importing water from the Colorado River and from the Central Valley's Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.  Importing water was intended to reduce the drawing down of groundwater, but in an average year, California consumes 1 to 2 million more acre-feet of groundwater than is replenished, the drawdown even more severe in drought years, the study found.

Desalination remains an option for acquiring drinking water from the ocean, but because the existing technology is so energy-expensive, desalinated water is far more expensive than water from other sources.


Major water districts have long advocated conservation, and for decades have encouraged the installation of low-flow shower heads and toilets that require less water to flush. As those features have become widespread, water districts are seeing diminishing conservation returns. The next big leap in conservation gains will require homeowners to replace grass lawns with artificial turf, drought-tolerant plants, or other less thirsty alternatives.


The West Basin Municipal Water District, Los Angeles County Sanitation, and the Orange County Water District, among others, have expanded recycling plants, which remove contaminants from sewage, the resulting filtered water being used mainly to replenish ground water.  It cannot be put directly into municipal water systems, so called "Toilet to tap" not permitted under California law.

The study's authors believe recycling can be expanded further.


"Our current approach to water use is unsustainable, but that doesn't mean there isn't enough water  to met our needs," said Kate Poole, senior attorney with the NRDC's water program.


Though the strategies advocated by the report are widely accepted, there is some skepticism that the projected gains are attainable without enormously expensive investment.  The study offers no cost estimates.

The study's perhaps most controversial section deals with the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta, from which millions of acre-feet of water are diverted to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.  The study contends California, on average, diverts five million more acre-feet than is needed to preserve the Delta's ecosystem, and calls that the major component in a "water deficit."


Others contend court decisions limiting diversions have given too much weight to environmental concerns, to the point of hurting agriculture and municipal water supplies.  During this drought year, growers have fallowed  hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland irrigated in years past by water from the Delta.


A plan supported by Gov. Brown would build new twin tunnels beneath the tunnel to deliver water south. It is now undergoing environmental impact review.  The NRDC has opposed the governor's plan as now outlined as too aggressive, suggesting one tunnel would do.

<![CDATA[CA Drought Forces Communities to Tap Ground Water]]> Wed, 28 May 2014 15:27:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/465648147.jpg

California's severe drought is forcing some water districts to pump ground water in order to serve its communities. The result has some Bay Area residents concerned with a film-like residue left on everything water touches, including kitchenware, sinks and shower tiles.

In the South Bay, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is using ground water -- also known as "hard water" -- in addition to what is left in reservoirs to deliver to homes.

"Ground water has more minerals than treated surface water," said Vanessa De La Piedra of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. "So what they're seeing on their dishes and glasses are basically mineral deposits -- primarily calcium and magnesium."

Los Altos resident Crysta Krames said almost everything that comes out of the dishwasher comes out covered with a film, something she considers too embarrassing to serve to guests.

Krames now washes her kitchenware by hand to make them look cleaner.

"It is definitely extra water. It's not drought productive at all," she said. "But you're not going to serve people wine in a filmy glass."

Officials said hard water is safe to drink. The Santa Clara Valley Water District cites a United States Geological Survey report that found 60 percent of the country uses hard water.

Water softeners are available for several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

An assistant manager at the Sunnyvale Lowe’s says that’s a small price to pay, considering hard water could shorten the life of pipes and water heaters when residue builds.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Water District Urges End of Suburban Lawn As We Know It]]> Wed, 28 May 2014 15:25:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Generic-Sprinkler-2.jpg
It may be time to kiss your grass goodbye.
Responding to water availability concerns that go beyond the current drought, officials with Southern California's dominant water agency are urging Southland residents to replace their lawns with less thirsty alternatives, such as artificial turf or native, drought-tolerant plants.
The fundamental transformation this would bring about is recognized, but seen as necessary.
"I think people need to change lifestyles," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the wholesale giant that imports 55 perecent of the water Southern California consumes from aqueducts that tap the Colorado River and snowmelt from Northern California.
The push to ditch purely ornamental, "non-functional" lawns began during the last drought of 2009,
when MWD began offering a cash incentives.  But the comments Thursday elevated the campaign to a new level.  
MWD has doubled the cash incentive to $2 per square foot of lawn removed and replaced, said Randy Record, chairman of the MWD Board of Directors.  On top of that, some member municipal agencies will pay an additional incentive.
There is a need for grass in parks and other recreational areas, Kightlinger said, adding that in many cases they are irrigated with recycled water.  But he said delivering recycled water to individual residential properties would require re-plumbing Southern California, and does not see that as a practical alternative.
Conservation has become a recurring theme during the series of droughts that have periodically plagued California since the 1970s.
Earlier campaigns have focused indoors on low-flow shower heads and toilets that require less water to flush.  Those programs have been so successful that only 10 percent of Southern California homes and businesses have yet to be updated, which leaves little room for additional water saving.
Hence the focus on reducing landscape irrigation, which takes half or more of the water Southern California consumes, and even more during summer heat.
In January, when Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed drought conditions (pictured in a timeline below), he called on California as a whole to reduce water use by 20 percent.
Record and Kightlinger spoke on the occasion of a pre-summer "drought update," but made it clear that even if next winter brings enough precipitation to end the current drought cycle, they hope  Southlanders will continue to conserve.
"We want a permanent transformation," Kightlinger said. 
Apart from the drought, environmental concerns have also reduced the amount of water that can be brought south through the San Francisco Bay Delta from the watersheds of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.
Some cities, including Los Angeles, have retained water conservation rules mandated during the last drought, including restrictions on outdoor watering.
This year, MWD does not see a need to expand mandatory conservation measures, thanks
to the availability of storage reserves, now close to three million acre feet.  But a long hot summer could draw that down by as much as a third, and in that case, there would be reason next year to consider mandatory measures.
MWD has brought back the "Water Alert Gauge" on its website to keep water users posted on how the reserves are holding up.
Southern California receives only a portion of the water delivered from the State Water Project via the California Aqueduct.  The majority goes to agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley, where the impact of the drought is being felt more severely, with the fallowing of hundreds of thousands of acres.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[All of CA Remains in "Severe" Drought or Worse]]> Thu, 22 May 2014 08:27:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/197*120/drought+map+may22+ca.jpg

The entire state of California faces "severe" drought conditions or worse as the West enters its dry season, according to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Drought Monitor's weekly report (scroll down to view map) tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

The report released Thursday shows little change for California, which is in a third-consecutive dry year. Severe to exceptional drought expanded to the entire state last week for the first time in the Drought Monitor's 15-year history.

Three months ago, 90 percent of the state was considered in severe to exceptional drought. One year ago, 46 percent of the state faced those conditions.

Months of dry weather left dead vegetation that, combined with strong winds and heat, fueled destructive wildfires last week in San Diego County.

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a second executive order to help with the state's drought, an effort to help prevent wildfires and assist cities and farmers. The order came a month after he signed $687.4 million worth of legislation to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to better use local water supplies.

A preliminary study released earlier this week by the University of California Davis said California's drought will cost the state's agricultural economy an estimated $1.7 billion this year and leave some 14,500 farmworkers without jobs. The study was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and used computer models and recent water delivery figures to arrive at its conclusions, the Associated Press reported.

The report estimates 6 percent of farmland in the Central Valley -- or 410,000 acres -- could go unplanted because of cuts in water deliveries. A more detailed report is due out this summer.

No significant rainfall is in the forecast.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor]]>
<![CDATA[Castaic Lake Closed to Swimmers]]> Sat, 17 May 2014 10:46:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/Castaic.jpeg

Castaic Lake will be off limits to swimmers this summer as water levels drop to record lows, exposing piping and steep drops along the coastline.

Beaches at the lake are typically crowded with families on summer weekends, but authorities said the devastating drought has led to record-low water levels that create unsafe conditions for inexperienced swimmers.

"With the drop offs in that swim area, there's normally a gradual decline and it's now a drop off where you can go from a foot to 6 feet of water in one step," said Cary Flebbe, a senior lake lifeguard with Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department.

Castaic Lake is popular with local residents for boating, kayaking and other aquatic activities, but it also serves as a reservoir for much of the region's drinking water.

The largest water project reservoir in the state, Castaic usually receives thousands of cubic feet of snowpack runoff from Northern California through the State Water Project each spring. This year, much of that water was diverted to Lake Perris to help get the Inland Empire through the summer.

Along the three miles of lagoon shoreline at Castaic Lake, the water's edge has dropped about 30 feet, leaving exposed pipes that are usually underwater.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, about 160,000 people visit the swim areas. Local residents said they were disappointed to hear about the ban.

"Oh that's not good, that's so sad to hear because I don't think there's anywhere else around here for anyone to swim, especially the kids," said Santa Clarita resident Michelle Bowes.

Boating, fishing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are still allowed, but that could be revisited if conditions worsen, according to a statement from the County.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Castaic Lake State Recreation Area]]>
<![CDATA[Study Examines Link Between Drought, Earthquakes]]> Fri, 16 May 2014 03:56:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought5.jpg

Groundwater pumping amid California’s historic drought may be affecting earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, according to a new study.

The pumping, which has been going on for decades in the usually fertile San Joaquin Valley, is now leading to an increase in temblors in the area, according to the study, spearheaded by Western Washington University, which was published in the science journal Nature.

"As the valley is going down, you are unclamping the San Andreas fault,” said Dr. Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey. "When you take out the water, it’s the weight of the water that is affecting the crust and the faults.”

The study suggests that while the Central Valley is sinking, the mountain ranges that surround it are climbing.

Hough said adding water to a fault zone can also alter an earthquake fault.

"If a big reservoir in particular is filled up, that can sometimes induce earthquakes, and we've seen some quite damaging earthquakes as a result of reservoirs being filled,” Hough said.

Altogether though, Hough said that while groundwater pumping and reservoirs may cause temblors to happen more quickly than normal, chances are the quakes were going to happen at some point anyway.

"An earthquake that is induced is going to happen anyway. If you hasten it a little bit, maybe it will happen in September instead of January, but it’s not really a game changer,” Hough said.

<![CDATA[CA Dam Water Will Be Tapped for First Time in Decades]]> Wed, 14 May 2014 07:27:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/235*120/friant+dam+drought.jpg

Water stored behind a dam north of Fresno will be tapped for the first time in decades as California and federal water officials looks for ways to alleviate the effects of a third-consecutive dry year with no relief in sight.

Water will begin to flow Thursday from Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official said during a Tuesday conference call about California's drought emergency. The water will be used to help California farmers as they face a dry, hot summer and low water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The dam forms the Millerton Lake reservoir north of Fresno in the heart of California's Central Valley region. Millerton Lake water is needed to meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's contractual water obligations to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, which holds senior water rights. The exchange provides irrigation water to about 240,000 acres of farmland between Patterson and Mendota, a vital agricultural area along the 5 Freeway.

The bureau has relied solely on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water to meet the exchange's needs, but extreme drought conditions throughout the state have forced officials to look at more options, including Friant Dam water.

"We continue to be in a very serious drought with very serious impacts," Pablo Arroyave, of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said Tuesday.

In 1939, the federal government reached an agreement with the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority to take its water from the Delta rather than the San Joaquin River, unless the Delta could not meet needs. In the drought, the Delta cannot provide enough water, marking a first since the agreement was struck.

Steve Chedester of the exchange said that more water is always good news for the 2,300 farms he serves. But he noted that the government said it will provide an increased amount of water through October. He worries about November and December, adding that the bureau said it remains committed to finding supplies for the exchange then.

Aside from these changes, the allotment of irrigation water to many Central Valley farmers who aren't considered senior rights holders is expected to remain at zero for the rest of the year, officials said.

The bureau also announced that it is increasing from 40 percent to 65 percent of normal the amount of water to wildlife refuges south of the Delta. Mike Lynes of Audubon California welcomed the additional water to help migratory birds that depend on the Central Valley wetlands for their survival.

"It's hard times for everybody -- for farmers, for water districts, folks in the city and for wildlife," he said. "We're all in this together."

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior]]>
<![CDATA[Unexpected Problems Plague Regional Water System]]> Sat, 10 May 2014 12:42:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/248*120/riverside-water-pinch-web-may.jpg

Urgent pleas for extra water conservation have gone out to nearly one million Southland residents in recent days as the region's largest water wholesaler reacts to a second unanticipated problem in coping with the drought.

The problems cropped up in connection with changes made by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) to "rebalance" its system for transporting, treating and delivering water imported via the California Aqueduct and another aqueduct from the Colorado River.
The temporary shutdown of the Mills Water Treatment Plant in Riverside Friday afternoon came with only a day's notice to the water districts it supplies, and just 50 hours after the MWD's largest treatment plant, Jensen in Granada Hills, was taken offline.  
For now, the MWD is operating with only three of its five treatment plants. The goal is to finish the needed work so Mills and Jensen can come back online by the end of the weekend.
The Mills plant has long been the primary source for areas of Riverside County with 330,000 people. For decades, Jensen has been virtually the only source for more than 650,000 in the west end of Los Angeles County and most of Ventura County.
The affected areas have water reserves, but limited capacity to do the needed treatment before delivery, prompting the pleas to consumers to cut back as much as possible until the two plants come back online.
"We're asking them to turn off their sprinklers. We're also asking them to put off washing clothes, washing cars, any non-essential water use," said Paul Jones, general manager of the Eastern Municipal Water District, which has relied on Mills water to meet the needs of Moreno Valley and Perris.
Both Eastern and its neighboring Western Municipal Water District planned to use reverse 9-1-1 calling systems to notify customers to begin cutting back immediately.  With cooperation, water officials expressed confidence they can get through the weekend.
But they are counting on the plants to come back online as scheduled.
"Two days we feel comfortable about. We just don't want to wait, we don't want to take chances," said John Rossi, General Manager of Western Municipal.
"I'm sure a couple of days won't hurt as long as the weather's not too bad," said Mission Grove resident Bridey Abad.
"I won't wash the car," promised Jeff Clayton of Moreno Valley.
Until now, in stark contrast to much of California north of the Tehachapi Mountains, the storage reserves built up by the MWD have enabled it to shield the six southern counties it serves from the impact of the drought.
Both Jensen and Mills are configured to draw water from the California Aqueduct.  But the drought has forced dramatic curtailments in deliveries, allocations for 2014 now set at only 5 percent of normal, though agencies such as the MWD that have banked water in previous years are able to draw on their storage.
"We're making historic, extraordinary changes to our system," said Jim Green, MWD's manager of water system operations.
On the western side of the MWD's service area, the drought had created a growing squeeze. Both the Las Virgenes and Calleguas Districts rely almost entirely on water from Jensen, but the limited supply from the California Aqueduct had reduced Jensen's output to less than a fourth of its capacity, Green said.
Ordinarily, the MWD does not pump Colorado River water as far west as Ventura County. But with Colorado River supplies close to average this year, that was seen as the best option to keep that area from running low on water.
But when the pumping began, strains on the system became apparent, and there were even concerns that a portion of it could "seize up," said Eric Bergh, resources manager for the Calleguas district.  
As a fix, MWD engineers designed a metal plate with holes like swiss cheese--an "isolation gate"--to be installed at Jensen.  That would require temporarily shutting down not only the Jensen plant, but also the Burbank pumping station that had begun sending Colorado River Water to Calleguas and Las Virgenes.
The MWD decided it had to be done, and soon, and the shutdown came just two days later on Wednesday night.
Meantime problems were developing on the California Aqueduct's eastern branch, which has long supplied the water treated for delivery by the Mills Plant.  Earlier this year, because of the drought,
Mills was cut off from aqueduct deliveries, according to Debra Man, the WMD's Chief Operating Officer. So that Mills could continue to operate, MWD drew on on water stored in a local reservoir.
In recent weeks, MWD got approval from California's Department of Water Resources to reopen the pipeline that connects Mills to the aqueduct, in order to take water stored several hundred miles to the north in San Luis Reservoir. But when water surged back into the high pressure pipeline, a pressure relief valve failed, Man explained.
The valve is located in Colton, more than 10 miles from the Mills plant. But the valve could not be fixed without shutting down the pipeline, cutting off the supply to Mills.
Deliveries will resume when the valve is fixed. MWD has been assured this repair, like the installation of the isolation gate at Jensen, will be completed over the weekend, Man said.  
The MWD's Chief Operating Officer and assistant GM harbors no illusions that this is the end of the rebalancing or "juggling," as she called it. 
"I think we're going to find that we're going to have to adjust facilites.  We may have to make some modifications and improvements," she said.
And the potential for more unanticipated problems that need emergency fixes?
"I think we'll find that may be the case." Man said.
<![CDATA[ 2nd Treatment Plant Temporarily Closes in LA Area]]> Fri, 09 May 2014 21:27:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/water18.jpg

Thousands of residents in Riverside County are being asked to immediately suspend outdoor watering and limit indoor water use while a treatment plant is shutdown for repairs.

More than 325,000 people from Perris, Moreno Valley and Riverside will be affected by the closure, as a state-operated pipeline from the Henry J. Mills Treatment Plant in Riverside undergoes emergency repairs through the weekend.

"While we have full confidence the state will complete repairs in the time allowed, our emergency reserves are limited in this portion of our service area," said Paul Jones, general manager of the Eastern Metropolitan Water District. "This is a very serious situation, and we must all do our part to ensure these communities continue to have the essential water supply reliability they have come to expect."

Beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, May 9, the plant will close to allow the California Department of Water Resources time to repair a leaking valve along the Santa Ana Valley Pipeline, which delivers water from Northern California through the state water project to the area.

This is the second closure in the Los Angeles area this weekend. Water officials closed the Joseph Jensen Treatment Plant in Granada Hills at midnight Thursday for drought-related upgrades.

More than two dozen cities are affected in Los Angeles and Ventura counties by the shutdown that is expected to last through Sunday afternoon.

Repairs at the Henry J. Mills Treatment Plant are expected to be completed by Sunday evening.

A leak in a highly pressurized pipeline in the Lytle Creek area of Riverside was reported earlier in the week.

"This is a critical, unplanned repair coming as the temperatures throughout the region are expected to rise," said Debra C. Man, Metropolitan Water District's chief operating officer. "We all need to do our part to reduce water use while the repairs are made."

More than one million customers are served by the Henry J. Mills plant that treats up to 220 million gallons of water per day.

Water officials recommended that residents refrain from washing their cars, filling swimming pools or spas, hosing down driveway, running water while washing the dishes and brushing teeth, and to limit showers to less than five minutes.

<![CDATA[SoCal Urged to Conserve Water This Weekend]]> Thu, 08 May 2014 20:18:13 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-water-replenish.jpg

Parts of west Los Angeles County and south Ventura County were asked to restrict their water usage for the next several days as a water treatment plant shutdown for drought-related upgrades.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California warned residents on its website that the Joseph Jensen Treatment Plant in Granada Hills would be out of service as of midnight on Thursday through noon on Sunday.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. That’s certainly what the current drought
is showing us," said Debra C. Man, Metropolitan’s assistant general manager and chief operating
officer. "The drought is challenging us to find creative ways to meet demands through conservation and delivery system enhancements."

The parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties affected, prior to plant closing, used water imported from Northern California that was treated at the Joseph Jensen Treatment Plant, via the state water project. Physical modifications would be made to the current water system to help maximize supply from the Colorado River, which runs east to Arizona .

With supplies from Northern California at 5 percent of contracted deliveries this year, adjustments were needed, according to water officials.

Some residents took the recommended water conservation tips seriously and followed them Thursday afternoon. Jenny Fontana, of Chatsworth, cleaned her car solely by vacuuming the inside of it and not using water to wash the exterior.

"It’s an inconvenience, but you know, what are you going to do," she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency drought proclamation in January, asking Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent.

"(This is) perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,” Brown said at a news conference in January. "We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas."

The Joseph Jensen Plant is one of five treatment facilities within the Metropolitan Water District’s distribution system and is considered a significant source of drinking water for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Over two dozen cities and thousands of residents are impacted by the temporary closure.

Affected cities in Ventura County include: Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Port Hueneme, Camarillo Heights, Las Posas Valley, Oak Park, Santa Rosa Valley, Lake Sherwood, Point Mugu and Somis.

Affected cities in Los Angeles County included: Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village, Agoura, Chatsworth, Lake Manor, Malibu Lake, Monte Nido and West Hills.

Water officials recommended that residents refrain from washing their cars, filling swimming pools or spas, hosing down driveway, running water while washing the dishes and to limit showers to less than five minutes.

They also added that the color of water delivered to residents may change over the weekend with an increased use of groundwater.

<![CDATA[SoCal Utility to Issue "Personal Drought" Reports]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 23:57:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/N6P_PKG_PERSONAL_DROUGHT_REPORT_web_1200x675_248752195744.jpg

In a nod to Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to all Californians to reduce water use during the state’s drought crisis, a local water agency will issue personal drought reports to its customers next week.

The Valencia Water Company’s 30,000 customers will receive a report by mail detailing how much water they will need to save this year in order to meet the governor’s call to save 20 percent. It will also provide tips on conservation.

The drought calculator, as the agency calls it, will display each residence’s water use in 2013 subtracted by 20 percent, leaving the total needed to meet the governor’s goal.

Participation is not mandatory.

“What they do with these drought reports is really up to them,” said Matt dickens, the agency’s resource conservation manager.

The Valencia Water Company serves Valencia, Stevenson Ranch and portions of Saugus, Newhall and Castaic.

California is under a drought emergency declared earlier this year by the governor as the state faces a third-consecutive dry year.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, issued Thursday, shows that 100 percent of the state remains under Moderate to Exceptional drought conditions. More than 96 percent of the state is under Severe to Exceptional drought conditions.

<![CDATA[Sierra Snowpack at 18 Percent of Average]]> Thu, 01 May 2014 13:09:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/232*120/snowpack-2-january-2013-2014-2.jpg

The final Sierra Nevada snowpack measurement of the season -- a critical measure of the state's water supply -- revealed more bare ground than snow after an abnormally dry winter and spring in  drought-stricken California.

The northern California mountains' spring runoff is a key source of water for California communities and growers, accounting for about one-third of the state's water. The final measurement of the wet season showed the snowpack at 18 percent of average for the date, according to the Department of Water Resources.

The DWR snowpack surveys gauge the amount of water melting from the mountain snowpack into streams and reservoirs. The monthly measurements allow state and regional water officials to develop water-use plans

A measurement on April 1, considered the peak of the snow season. It showed that the state's snowpack was about 32 percent of average water content.

Thursday's measurement served as another indication of the state's dire situation. California is under a drought emergency declared earlier this year by the governor as the state faces a third-consecutive dry year.

A poor snowpack measurement spells problems for the entire state with hot and dry summer months ahead.

Water managers have said the northern Sierra snowpack that feeds California's major reservoirs is 9 percent of average, and those reservoirs are only half full. The lack of water means farmers have fallowed tens of thousands of acres -- fields left unsown to restore fertility -- and that affects how many workers they employ.

Some ranchers have sold parts of their herds to cut costs as free-range grasses failed to grow as abundantly as usual, according to Associated Press reports. The water shortage also affects wildlife in California's rivers and streams.

The relentless dry spell prompted Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month to issue a second executive order in an effort to help firefighters, farmers and cities more quickly respond to the drought.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, issued Thursday, shows that 100 percent of the state remains under Moderate to Exceptional drought conditions. More than 96 percent of the state is under Severe to Exceptional drought conditions.

The weekly report tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).


<![CDATA[Increased Water Recycling Offers Drought-Proofing]]> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 22:04:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/57066857-1200.jpg

Expanded recycling of sewage water holds the promise of reducing Southern California's reliance on importing drinking water from rivers and snowmelt hundreds of miles away, according to officials from groundwater and sanitation agencies.

It is a promise all the more desirable with the state in its third year of drought, and absent relief, facing the prospect of drastic conservation measures next year.
In recent years, recycling of water has been increasing.  
The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County reached a milestone when the annual output of their 10 plants put to "benefitical use" exceeded 100,000 acre feet for the first time this past year, said Grace Robinson Hyde, chief engineer and general manager.  
The district is making plans to increase that by as much as 40 percent.
Statewide, a bill for an $8 billion water bond measure to go on the November ballot would
provide up to half a billion dollars to improve and expand water recycling, along with other steps to make California more drought-proof.
"Moving forward, it has to be a huge part," said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and principal author of AB 1331.  
Rendon spoke Friday after getting a tour and being briefed at the Sanitation Districts' largest treatment facility near San Jose Creek, at the north end of Whittier.
Some of the recycled water is sent to parks and golf courses for landscape irrigation.  The majority goes to replenishing the underground aquifers that are the source of wellwater.  
In the southern portion of LA County, wellwater accounts for 40 percent of total water consumption, according to the Water Replenishment Disrict (WRD).
Though sewage water can be treated to meet drinking water standards, and four stage treatment does so, California law does not permit so-called "toilet to tap."
Recycled water may not be sent directly into municipal drinking water systems, but first must undergo the natural filtration that occurs when it percolates through the soil into groundwater tables.  The process takes two to five years, said Mike Sullivan, a division engineer at the Sanitation Districts.
Afterwards, the water can be tapped via wells and distributed as drinkable water.
"Having the water here, constantly here, even during drought, is an easy source of water to tap," said Sam Pedroza, an environmental planner with the Sanitation Districts.
To replenish LA County's Central and Coastal groundwater basins, WRD has relied for decades on purchases from the Metropolitan Water District, which imports water from the Colorado River
and the State Water Project that delivers water south via the California aqueduct.
Now the WRD envisions the day that, between collected rain runoff and expanded use of
recycled water, replenishment will not require any imported water at all.
The WRD recently released an environmental impact report for its plan to build additional and higher level treatment capacity at the Sanitation Districts' San Jose Creek facility.  Groundbreaking is targeted for late 2015, and by early 2017, the central basin could be kept replenished
soley by local sources, General Manager Robb Whitaker said.
The completion of three additional projects could make the west basin also locally sufficient, Whitaker said.
Recycled water is not seen as a panacea for the state's water woes.  Rendon's water bond would apportion $2.5 million to storage.  
San Joaquin Valley farmers and others have called for building additional reservoir capacity so that during heavy rain seasons more water can be gleaned from the Sacramento River, and saved for drier years.
Southern California will remain dependent on imported water for the forseeable future.  But better to reduce the amount of water to be transported hundreds of miles and then lifted over the Tehachapi Mountains, in Rendon's view.
"We have to make sure that we depend on local solutions," he said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Drought Causes Rat Problem at SF Park]]> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 07:15:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/0424-SF-rats.jpg

California's severe drought apparently has created a rat problem at San Francisco's Heron Head Park.

Many park visitors report seeing rats running around during the day.

Tina O'Keefe of Dirty Rats Rodent Removal said the drought is driving rats out from hiding underground.

"There's no water source for them right now so they're going outside to get it," O'Keefe said. "They eat plants. They eat meat. They're going to the dog park because there are water bowls. They're going to horse stables because there's water."

O'Keefe has been busy and said calls for services have come from all over the Bay Area.

The Port of San Francisco plans to get rodent-proof garbage cans at Heron Head Park and is working with a no-poison exterminator to try and control the health hazard.

Erik Auerbach, a frequent park visitor, hopes the rat problem will be addressed soon.

"We do come out here with food," he said. "It's gross if I'm giving treats and see a rat scurrying by out there."

But with no end to the drought in sight, experts said rats all over the Bay Area will be out.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Moderate, Exceptional Drought Expands to All of CA]]> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 13:42:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/drought-monitor-map-april23.gif

Drought conditions expanded in California this week, marking the first time in the U.S. Drought Monitor's 15-year history that the entire state faces moderate to exceptional drought.

The Drought Monitor's weekly report (scroll down to view map) tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

Drought expanded across portions of southeast California and into southwest Arizona this week. Earlier this month, that extreme southeast corner of California was considered abnormally dry.

More than 96 percent of the state faces severe to exceptional drought. One year ago, only 30 percent of the state fell into those categories.

Severe and extreme drought conditions expanded in northern California this week. Exceptional drought expanded in the San Francisco Bay area and all of Monterey County.

No significant rainfall is in the forecast as communities and farmers struggling amid a third-consecutive dry year enter a hot, dry summer.

<![CDATA[LA Neighborhood Uses Runoff to Fight Drought]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:10:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drought-water-replenish.jpg

What cured a Southland neighborhood's recurring flooding, ironically, is also proving effective in combating the ongoing drought.

What caught the attention of Sun Valley residents on Elmer Avenue was the opportunity to augment drainage systems to keep storm runoff from flooding over curbs and eroding yards. But rather than sending the water into the storm sewer and out to sea, the new drainage collects runoff, steering
the majority into the soil to replenish groundwater.

"It's a benefit," said longtime neighborhood resident Alicia Gonzalez, who recalls years past when rainstorms literally eroded her front yard.

That has not happened again in the four years since the new drainage systems were retrofitted. Better still, Gonzalez's household is buying less water from the utility company, because between the recycling and drought-tolerant landscaping, much less water is needed for irrigation.

"What's cool about it is we get to recycle our rainwater," Gonzalez said. 

"Elmer Avenue really represents what we can do with our runoff water," said Brian Sheridan of the Council for Watershed Health, the nonprofit that spearheaded the Elmer demonstration project.  He cited research showing billions of gallons of water can gleaned every year from runoff collection.
Minimizing runoff into flood control channels also reduces the pollution that goes to the ocean, Sheridan said.
Systems that collect rainwater also gather dry-season runoff from sources such as sprinkler overspray or driveway car washing, said Eileen Alduenda, a landscape architect and
project manager of the Elmer Avenue demonstration.

Many of the yards on Elmer Avenue have rock-lined creek channels called swales that are dry most of the time, but can collect any runoff and allow it to percolate into the soil. Yards also have reverse curb drains--instead of sending runoff into the gutter, they take water from the gutter and direct it into the yard for irrigation or percolation. What's more, downspouts deliver roof runoff to rain barrels with with spigots so that the gathered water can be used for watering with a garden hose.

The Council's mission is guided by the results of studies showing that soil can function as a filter for runoff, removing impurities as the water percolates down to the underground aquifers that are the sources of wellwater.

Elmer Avenue south of Keswick Avenue narrows into an alley. As a second phase of the retrofit project, the alley was transformed into a greenbelt with a long, meandering swale, which collects runoff. Wednesday the soil in the swale was noticeably moist, even though the area has had no measurable rainfall for several weeks. "This is good evidence of dry weather runoff," Alduenda said.

Next to the swale is a walkway paved with concrete that is permeable, so water does not pond or run off, but instead drains through the concrete into the ground below. What was once an alley now welcomes strollers and visiting school classes and has been dubbed the Elmer Paseo.

Legislation encouraging runoff collection systems has been introduced in Sacramento by Senator Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. SB985 moved out of the Senate Water and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. A study cited by her office projected that dry run-off in Los Angeles County amounts to 767 thousand acre feet of water--enough to satisfy the household needs of one and a half million.

The Elmer Avenue project was enabled by the cooperation of literally dozens of public and private entities. The green initiative went beyond water management--street lighting installed by city of Los Angeles is solar powered with battery storage.

The Council is making plans to proceed with other alley rehab projects similar to the Elmer Paseo. But at this point there are no arrangements in place for another retrofit of the magnitude of Elmer Avenue.

Meantime, Elmer Avenue has become a case study for neighborhood water management.

"A lot of people want the changes that we have," Gonzalez observed.

<![CDATA[Environmental Group Says Answer to CA Drought is Trees]]> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 08:21:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DROUGHTHOTTERDRIERweb_1200x675_206689859755.jpg An environmental group wants to avoid the current drought becoming a health problem and believes the answer can be found in trees. Conan Nolan reports from Studio City for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Court Decision Limits SoCal Water Aid]]> Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:15:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/N6PPKGDROUGHTCOURTRULINGweb_1200x675_195617859896.jpg A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday to restrict water deliveries from the Delta smelt in Northern California, putting more pressure on local water authorities to rethink water conservation efforts. Patrick Healy reports from Santa Monica for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 14, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Above-Normal Temperatures Reduce CA Snowpack]]> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 09:06:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/drought-monitor-map-april17.gif

Temperatures 9 to 12 degrees above normal in California reduced an already low snowpack as drought conditions remained unchanged amid the state's dry spell, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor.

The report (scroll down to view map) tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor

researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

More than 95 percent of California remains in the D2 to D4 categories. Three months ago, nearly 90 percent of the state fell into those categories as communities struggle through a third-consecutive dry year.

Above-normal temperatures in the Sierra Nevada range were "detrimental" to the region's snowpack, according to the report. The snow melts as spring runoff, providing water for communities and farmers who depend on it during California's hot, dry summers.

"California lost half of the snow water equivalence (SWE) in a single week and there was little response to inflows into reservoirs," according to the Drought Monitor report.

The Sierra snowpack measured at 32 percent of normal earlier this month -- a time of year when it is supposed to be at its peak. The California Department of Water Resources measures the snowpack monthly during the wet season.

No significant rainfall is in the forecast with summer's hot, dry months ahead. A storm system might bring small amounts of rain to central and northern California next week.

<![CDATA[California Drought Driving Up Food Prices]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:31:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/0415-foodprices.jpg

A head of lettuce could go up as much as 62 cents, an avocado may increase by 35 cents and a pound of tomatoes appears to be headed for a 45-cent hike, according to a study that examined the effects of California's drought on food prices.

"It seems like they fluctuate a lot," shopper Benisa Berry said of food prices. "It seems like it's on sale one week and then you go the next day and it's like twice as much."

Carol Benevidez, of Windmill Farms in San Ramon, said the freeze in January combined with the unpredictable weather and drought are driving up prices.

"Customers are definitely going to see the cost increase and it's going to be across the board for everyone, from owners to customers unfortunately," Benevidez said.

A lime that used to sell for 33 cents is now 79 cents, and come summer Benevidez said more produce will be impacted by the state's lack of water including squash, lettuce and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines.

"We have gotten word from farmers that they either have to cut back on crops or just not plant at all," Benevidez said.

Grocers in response will have to import the produce, which comes at a cost.

"So we're paying over a $150 per box of limes and we're mainly only able to get those out of Mexico right now because we have nothing really here in California," Benevidez said.

Shoppers said they are now limiting their grocery lists to items they really need.

"You got to eat you know? So I just cut out some unnecessary things," shopper Susan Ni said. "Like what? Luxury things like cake, party things, drinks, all those things."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[No Drought Relief Ahead of Hot, Dry Summer]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:39:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/tap1.jpg

A stretch of hot, dry weather resulted in no significant changes for California's drought conditions as state water officials continue to analyze the impact of storms that briefly interrupted a long dry spell.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report, issued weekly, tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

More than 95 percent of the state remains in the Severe to Exceptional drought categories, according to the Monitor. Three months ago, 87 percent of the state fell into those categories.

The report comes a day after the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday announced that water deliveries to farms and drought-stricken communities will remain at zero until an analysis by water managers is complete. The officials are attempting to determine whether recent storms helped enough to warrant increases.

The analysis will likely take until the end of April

State Water Project allocations have been cut to zero for the first time in the system's 54-year history. The federally run Central Valley Project has also canceled deliveries to most recipients.

California is in a drought emergency, and officials said recent rains haven't helped the state's outlook.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Nears Move to Mandatory Water Conservation]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:01:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/01-drought.JPG

At the vanguard of Southern California cities affected by the drought, Santa Barbara is expected to impose mandatory conservation, and within a year, may also undertake the expense of restarting its long-mothballed desalination plant, according to city officials.

The expense of desalination makes it a last resort after other steps are taken.  As soon as next month, the City Council is expected to take up mandatory conservation, which would include banning certain outdoor water uses, and as a disincentive, raising the cost of water at higher usages, said Joshua Haggmark, acting director of water resources.

After last week's rain, Santa Barbara City Hall urged  property owners to turn off their sprinklers for two weeks.

The city's main source of water,  Cachuma Lake, is now down to 39 percent of capacity.  Santa Barbara has been replenishing the lake by importing water via the California Aqueduct.  But that is being suspended temporarily by issues related to water diversion down the Santa Ynez River for the benefit of steelhead trout.

Santa Barbara has recently completed a new water well, and intends to expedite the drilling and plumbing of another new well in Alameda Park, costing around $2 million apiece.

"Definitely using more well water this year," Haggmark said, estimating it could double, and account for as much as 20 to 25 percent of the city's water usage.

But it's only a temporary remedy - perhaps two or three years by Haggmark's estimate before the groundwater must be recharged.

The city's drought plan envisions getting through five years of drought before having to resort to desalination.  Restoring and updating the plant completed in the early 90s could cost upwards of $20 million and could take as long as two years.

Later this year, the city plans to seek plans and proposals, see if the next winter eases the drought, then make a decision next spring.

Currently, no Southern California city relies on desalination. A 50 million gallon-a-day plant now under construction in the San Diego County city of Carlsbad is expected to go online early in 2016.

For Santa Barbara, for now, the emphasis will be on conservation, particulary reduction of
landscape irrigation by replacing lawns with drought tolerant plants, said Alison Jordan, Santa Barbara's Water Conservation Supervisor.

The city recognizes it will be difficult for residents who have already xeriscaped their yards to achieve the city's overall goal of 20 percent reduction.  They will not be penalized, Jordan said, and those with large lawns and other water intensive landscaping could be expected to cut back 30 or 40 percent.

When Christine Nolte and her husband moved into their current Santa Barbara home two years ago, during the first year of this drought, they did away with the yard, creating a courtyard of
flagstone and decomposed granite, highlighted with drought-tolerant plants and a fountain that recirculates its water.

Nolte said she would not mind paying a little extra for water if needed to cover the cost of desalination.

But not until after giving conservation a chance.

"I would first like to see people get on the bandwagon and change their landscaping," Nolte said.

Lacking groundwater resources, the wealthy neighboring enclave of Montecito faces an even more severe water squeeze than Santa Barbara. 

Montecito has already imposed mandatory conservation, but the financial consequences
will not go into effect until the April billing cycle, March being informational to let customers know where they stand, according to general manager Thomas Mosby.

Preliminary analysis of the March meter reading reveals that 95 percent of Montecito's water users met the new water goals, Mosby said.

Meantime, California's Department of Public Health has removed 15 of the 17 districts it had put on a water watch last January, districts believed to be at risk of running dry of potable water in as soon
as three months.

Of the two districts that remain on the list, one serves nearly 4,000 in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, and another even smaller district  serves a rural apartment building in Mariposa County, according to Public Health spokesman Matt Conens