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Drought Watch 2014

No matter what happens in the remaining few weeks of the “wet season,” California's drought is unlikely to be quenched. 2013 is in the books as California's driest calendar year on record. More than half of our precipitation typically falls in three months: December, January and February. There was virtually nothing in the rain gauge for December and January and the precipitation window has essentially closed as we move into summer, with profound implications for life and livelihoods in California.

Low water levels leave much of Folsom Lake, east of Sacramento, looking like a mud flat. (Dan Brekke)

Low water levels leave much of Folsom Lake, east of Sacramento, looking like a mud flat. (Dan Brekke)

All Eyes on the Sierra

Snow that accumulates in the Sierra accounts for about a third of the state's water supply. Water content of the snowpack is a small fraction of what's considered normal.

Reservoirs Dropping

Officials are also watching key reservoirs that supply the complicated plumbing that carries water to farms and cities throughout the state. Reservoirs are low without the benefit of much recharge from winter rain and snowfall. Last winter was dry, too, especially the latter part. That means there is little carryover supply to help get us through the summer.

The Latest

The list of cities and water districts announcing water restrictions – both voluntary and mandatory — is growing rapidly.

The state’s $45 billion agricultural sector faces severe cuts in water supply, too, which could mean acres — reportedly as many as a half-million — taken out of production, leading to high unemployment in farm communities and, potentially, higher food prices.

State and federal water managers have set planned allocations from the state's two largest water delivery projects at zero for the first time ever, though “health and safety” supplies, like drinking water, will be provided.

Scant rainfall in the new year has set the stage for more than 600 wildfires and added a new threat for endangered salmon.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official statewide drought on January 17, as he called for a voluntary statewide reduction in water consumption. The drought declaration outlines 20 steps, some mandatory, some merely advisory, to meet water shortages that have already started to affect many communities. State water officials have released monthly plans for operating the state's reservoirs and rivers in an attempt to balance the needs of people and wildlife.

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During Long, Dry Summer of Drought, Nobody Wins

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Cold, Then Dry: Dealing California Citrus Farmers a Double Punch

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Cold, Then Dry: Dealing California Citrus Farmers a Double Punch

First the freeze, now a crippling water shortage confront citrus growers in the Central Valley.

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California Drought Math: The Tricky Task of Distributing Water to a Thirsty State

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Distributing enough water to everyone has never been an easy task in perennially thirsty California. But making sure that residents, farms and the natural environment are all sufficiently hydrated becomes a particularly difficult balancing act during prolonged droughts. Simply put, there's just not enough to go around. Cartoon journalist Andy ...Read More

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California Farmers Look to Oil Industry for Water

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California Farmers Look to Oil Industry for Water

As water supplies tighten for California farmers, some are looking to an unlikely new source: a water recycling project in one of the state's oldest oil fields.

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Sierra Snowpack: Better But Far From What’s Needed for Drought

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Sierra Snowpack: Better But Far From What’s Needed for Drought

A key indicator of California's water prospects is likely to peak out at about one-third of normal.

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How Water and Oil Mix in California

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California is the third-largest oil producing state in the country. To produce oil, companies deal with massive amounts of water. They need it for hydraulic fracturing, and they produce a lot from underground.

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With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

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With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

The drought is putting a spotlight on water use around California, including for hydraulic fracturing. How much water does fracking use and will it increase as companies tap into the Monterey Shale, estimated to be the largest oil resource in country?

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Anza-Borrego, a Park Dealing With a Drought on Top of a Drought

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Dry years stifle a key tourist attraction, creating challenge for supporters of state's largest park. ...Read More

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Video: Drought Peril Prompts a Massive Trucking Operation for Baby Salmon

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Parched Produce: California Agriculture in a State of Drought

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Parched Produce: California Agriculture in a State of Drought

These are bone dry times for California. Even with the recent rains, the state is still mired in one of its worst droughts in recorded history. And that spells trouble for the vast agriculture industry here. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. View as slideshow Andy Warner's comic journalism has ...Read More

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California Drought Update: How Low Can the Reservoirs Go?

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Drought Etiquette: When Is Yellow No Longer Mellow?

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Symposium Addresses Drought’s Impact on Imperial, Coachella Valleys

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Visualization: How the Drought is Shrinking California’s Reservoirs

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Visualization: How the Drought is Shrinking California’s Reservoirs

California's landscape is peppered with a huge collection of dams and reservoirs, providing water — and in some cases power — to cities and farms throughout the state. Most of these reservoirs typically fill up during the wet winter months and are slowly depleted over the course of the summer ...Read More

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Drought Diary: Keep a Bucket in Your Bathroom

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East Bay Water District Eyes Emergency Supply From Sacramento River

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East Bay Water District Eyes Emergency Supply From Sacramento River

Everything's in place, including drought, to allow agency to tap water it has tried to get for decades. ...Read More

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California Communities That Pay a Flat Rate for Water Use More of It

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Less consumption in places with water meters, which will be required in all homes and businesses by 2025.

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Why Distant Dust Storms Matter to California Rainfall

KQED Science | March 10, 2014 | 1 Comment

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Scientists are finding that dust storms in Asia and Africa influence how much snow falls in the Sierra Nevada. The research could help make weather forecasting more accurate and improve how California manages its water supply.

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San Jose’s New Plant Transforms Sewage Into ‘Really Clean’ Water

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