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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

Recent polling indicates that Californians now consider the drought the most pressing environmental issue facing the state.

In July, regulators issued the first statewide water restrictions, which carry potential fines of up to $500 per day for repeat violators. More significantly, local water agencies themselves are now subject to steep daily fines if they fail to enforce the new rules. Accordingly, local agencies were moving toward more mandatory water restrictions. In a July statewide survey, three-quarters of the respondents said that they favored mandatory restrictions on water use.

The state’s $45 billion agricultural sector faces severe cuts in water supply. A study by U.C. Davis projects that 430,000 acres of farmland will remain unplanted this year, leading to high unemployment in some farm communities, particularly in pockets of the San Joaquin Valley.

State and federal water managers 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. By early August, the number of California wildfires was running 35 percent above average.

Background

2013 is in the books as California’s driest calendar year on record. 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 begun 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.

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.

Epic Drought in West Is Literally Moving Mountains

KQED Science | August 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Epic Drought in West Is Literally Moving Mountains

Some parts of California’s mountains have been uplifted by as much as half an inch in the past 18 months because the massive amount of water lost in the drought is no longer weighing down the land, causing it to rise a bit like an uncoiled spring.

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Drought-Stricken California Town Struggles to Keep the Water Flowing

KQED Science | August 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Drought-Stricken California Town Struggles to Keep the Water Flowing

From heavy machinery to hand-held flour sifters, this town is pulling out all the stops to save its water.

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Gardening in the Drought: What Makes a Plant ‘Drought-Tolerant’

KQED Science | August 15, 2014 | 1 Comment

Gardening in the Drought: What Makes a Plant ‘Drought-Tolerant’

Plants have evolved all sorts of ways to survive the dry times in California.

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Water Restrictions: Meaning of ‘Mandatory’ Depends on Where You Live

KQED Science | August 12, 2014 | 2 Comments

Water Restrictions: Meaning of ‘Mandatory’ Depends on Where You Live

Enforcement strategies are all over the map, literally and figuratively.

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Brown Wades Into Water Bond Debate

News Fix | August 6, 2014

Brown Wades Into Water Bond Debate

Gov. Jerry Brown (Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images) Gov. Jerry Brown is wading into the debate over a multibillion-dollar water bond. In a letter to campaign supporters, Brown called the $11 billion bond measure currently slated for the November ballot “a pork-laden water bond … with a price tag ...Read More

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Excessive Water Pumping Leaves Aquifers Vulnerable to Pollution

The California Report | August 5, 2014

Excessive Water Pumping Leaves Aquifers Vulnerable to Pollution

As reservoir levels dwindle, many regions are pumping water from underground. On the Central Coast, that's causing ocean water to pollute underground aquifers. The seawater is making groundwater unusable for crops like strawberries. ...Read More

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California’s Biggest Water Source Shrouded in Secrecy

KQED Science | July 31, 2014 | 18 Comments

California’s Biggest Water Source Shrouded in Secrecy

Stanford launches a major investigation of the state's dwindling groundwater resources and finds "alarming" gaps.

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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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Drought Lessons From Down Under

KQED Science | June 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Drought Lessons From Down Under

Australia's nine-year "millennial drought" transformed attitudes toward water. Could California duplicate the gains without the pain?

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