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Drought Watch 2014

We're collecting all of our California drought coverage here, starting with the current state of the drought, then providing the background and rounding up all the stories we've produced.

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.

State and federal officials are preparing for a long and difficult wildfire season. In Southern California, wildfire season never ended; fires burned through the winter. So far this year, more than 1,500 wildfires have started.

The lack of rain also adds 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. (Last updated 5/20/14)

Background

2013 is in the books as California's driest calendar year on record. Now, as the spring runoff season taps an anemic Sierra snowpack — less than 18 percent of normal — the Golden State is in for a parched summer, with profound implications for life and livelihoods in California.

Officials are watching key reservoirs that supply the complicated plumbing that carries water to farms and cities throughout the state. Without the benefit of much recharge from winter rain and snowfall, major reservoirs have been running about two-thirds of normal.

Share Your Story

We’re collecting and sharing photos, graphics, water-saving tips and, yes, the occasional haiku, on our Tumblr blog, State of Drought.

Drought Becomes Top Environmental Priority for Californians

KQED Science | July 23, 2014 | 5 Comments

Drought Becomes Top Environmental Priority for Californians

Those surveyed say they favor mandatory restrictions on water use.

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California Fire Season: Threat of Dry Lightning Looms

KQED Science | July 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

California Fire Season: Threat of Dry Lightning Looms

Weather experts say the next couple of weeks could be some of the worst in state history for wildfires caused by lightning strikes.

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Feds Give Nearly $10 Million For California Drought Relief

News Fix | July 18, 2014

Feds Give Nearly $10 Million For California Drought Relief

More than 80% of California is now in severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. (Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor) A day after the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that more than 80% of the state is now experiencing extreme drought, the federal government is giving the state $9.7 million. ...Read More

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Three ‘Drought Bear’ Cubs Captured and Released at Lake Tahoe

News Fix | July 17, 2014

Three ‘Drought Bear’ Cubs Captured and Released at Lake Tahoe

Brace yourselves. There is a serious problem taking shape in the Sierra Nevada (but on occasion, it's seriously cute, too.) Nevada Department of Wildlife Conservation Aid Cooper Munson holds two of three black bear cubs captured and safely released on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of NDOWDrought bear cubs. On Wednesday, Nevada Department of ...Read More

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Yosemite Bans Wilderness Campfires

News Fix | July 17, 2014

Yosemite Bans Wilderness Campfires

Half Dome, from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. (James Chang/Flickr)Yosemite National Park is banning back-country campfires in an attempt to prevent human-caused fires. The ban will be in effect for wilderness areas below 6,000 feet elevation. The National Park Service says that fires are still allowed in designated campgrounds and ...Read More

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California Water Districts Face Suit for Ignoring Conservation Law

KQED Science | July 17, 2014 | 4 Comments

California Water Districts Face Suit for Ignoring Conservation Law

Investigative report prompted legal action. And some districts are responding.

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Lady Gaga: California Water-Conservation Cheerleader

News Fix | July 16, 2014

Lady Gaga: California Water-Conservation Cheerleader

California's water bureaucracy has approved penalties against the hydro-criminals among us who do things like wash down sidewalks and dump too much water on our lawns. Penalties could be as much as $500 per offense. It remains to be seen how the scores and score of water agencies that ...Read More

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California Regulators Approve Fines for Wasting Water

KQED Science | July 15, 2014 | 7 Comments

California Regulators Approve Fines for Wasting Water

Watering your lawn or washing your car may become a lot more expensive. State regulators have approved new fines aimed at water wasters, hoping the penalties will lead to a reduction in water use.

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California’s Drought is Hurting Farmers More Than Food Consumers

KQED Science | July 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

California’s Drought is Hurting Farmers More Than Food Consumers

Economists estimate that the drought will cost the state's farm economy about $2.2 billion this year, including the loss of more than 17,000 jobs.

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Drought Drives Hungry Bears to Lake Tahoe

KQED Science | July 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Drought Drives Hungry Bears to Lake Tahoe

Nevada wildlife officials say they're increasingly responding to a new kind of troublemaker they've started calling "drought" bears.

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State Officials Consider Mandatory Limits on Outdoor Watering

KQED Science | July 9, 2014 | 5 Comments

State Officials Consider Mandatory Limits on Outdoor Watering

Wasting water outdoors amid the state's drought will begin hitting Californians in the wallet under get-tough restrictions being proposed by state regulators.

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How Efficient Is Your Sprinkler?

KQED Science | July 7, 2014 | 1 Comment

How Efficient Is Your Sprinkler?

Landscaping makes up half the water bill for most homeowners, and it’s often the most wasteful piece of the water picture.

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Water Bond Grows By $4 Billion, Fails To Pass State Senate

News Fix | June 24, 2014

Water Bond Grows By $4 Billion, Fails To Pass State Senate

$10.5 billion plan now includes more money for reservoirs, but not enough to win Republican votes. ...Read More

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As Water Prices Soar, Some Profit From California’s Drought

KQED Science | June 23, 2014 | 3 Comments

As Water Prices Soar, Some Profit From California’s Drought

Fights are breaking out over controversial water sales. Some farmers say they need the water to keep trees alive, while others say groundwater pumping depletes supplies for neighboring farms, and could threaten California's already-stressed aquifers.

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California Drought Dries Up Honey Supply

KQED Science | June 16, 2014 | 4 Comments

California Drought Dries Up Honey Supply

Mountain meadows that would normally be covered with wildflowers have nothing to offer the bees this year, as the flowers lie dormant in the drought. Beekeepers are looking at drastically reduced production, and in some cases are just trying to keep their bees alive.

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A Fourth Drought Year for California: What Are the Odds?

KQED Science | June 15, 2014 | 4 Comments

A Fourth Drought Year for California: What Are the Odds?

Two prominent California water experts advise: don't bet on wet.

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Drought Outlook: ‘Disastrous Consequences’ If 2015 Is Dry

KQED Science | June 11, 2014 | 1 Comment

Drought Outlook: ‘Disastrous Consequences’ If 2015 Is Dry

A new report echoes some of the worst fears of a fourth straight drought year.

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Dueling Drought Strategies: Save More Water or Store More Water

KQED Science | June 10, 2014 | 2 Comments

Dueling Drought Strategies: Save More Water or Store More Water

Two competing camps have emerged about how to boost California's water supplies during dry times: conserve more water or build more water storage.

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Drought Drives Drilling Frenzy for Groundwater in California

KQED Science | June 2, 2014 | 14 Comments

Drought Drives Drilling Frenzy for Groundwater in California

The unrestrained race to drill new wells could put California's biggest water source in jeopardy.

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Despite Drought, Laws to Track California’s Biggest Water Users Ignored

KQED Science | May 28, 2014 | 1 Comment

Despite Drought, Laws to Track California’s Biggest Water Users Ignored

Some farm water districts are flouting requirements to measure and report water deliveries to customers.

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