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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.

California’s ‘Water Year’ Ends as Third Driest on Record

KQED Science | September 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

California’s ‘Water Year’ Ends as Third Driest on Record

Only 1924 and 1977 were drier. And there's little in the long-range forecasts to suggest a rebound soon.

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Long-Range Forecast: Less Snow for Skiers, Less Water for California

KQED Science | September 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Long-Range Forecast: Less Snow for Skiers, Less Water for California

A new federal report affirms what scientists have been saying for years: California's "bank account" of snow-melt water may be overdrawn within decades.

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Drought Rallies Support for California Water Projects

KQED Science | September 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

Drought Rallies Support for California Water Projects

Water worries persist -- and may be driving support for a multi-billion-dollar water bond.

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Why More Trees in the Sierra Mean Less Water for California

KQED Science | September 15, 2014 | 20 Comments

Why More Trees in the Sierra Mean Less Water for California

California water districts are eyeing a potential new source of water: trees. After a century of fire suppression, Sierra Nevada forests are more dense than ever before. And those pine trees are taking up a lot of water that might otherwise run off into California rivers.

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Quake-Revived Streams Could Keep Flowing for a While

KQED Science | September 9, 2014 | 2 Comments

Quake-Revived Streams Could Keep Flowing for a While

The Napa quake jump-started several streams in the Napa and adjoining valleys, but how long they'll run and where the water is coming from is hard to pin down.

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How to Drive Home the Drought Message: Make It a Game

KQED Science | September 8, 2014 | 1 Comment

How to Drive Home the Drought Message: Make It a Game

As the drought continues, efforts to spur action include an online game that puts users in charge of California's water supply.

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Drought Myth-Busting: Why El Niño Is Never A Good Bet

KQED Science | September 1, 2014 | 3 Comments

Drought Myth-Busting: Why El Niño Is Never A Good Bet

The peculiar set of ocean conditions is known as a California rainmaker -- but El Niño's reputation has been greatly exaggerated.

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Landmark Groundwater Reform Headed to Governor’s Desk

KQED Science | August 29, 2014 | 1 Comment

Landmark Groundwater Reform Headed to Governor’s Desk

The era of unlimited groundwater pumping in California could be ending. A package of bills would require local agencies to restore over-pumped aquifers.

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Leaky Pipes Lose Billions of Gallons of Water Every Year in the Bay Area

KQED Science | August 28, 2014 | 1 Comment

Leaky Pipes Lose Billions of Gallons of Water Every Year in the Bay Area

On top of the drought, the South Napa Quake damaged dozens of water pipes and last month a ruptured pipe ruptured on the UCLA campus leaked about 20 million gallons of water. So how strong is California's water infrastructure?

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California Drought Portrait: Our Shrinking Reservoirs

News Fix | August 26, 2014

California Drought Portrait: Our Shrinking Reservoirs

By Lisa Pickoff-White and Dan Brekke It's no surprise, really: Water levels in California's reservoirs continue to drop as the thirsty state waits for the first sign of fall rains. Still, it's startling to see the evidence of how far the reservoirs have fallen. Last week, Getty Images photographer ...Read More

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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 | 2 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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El Niño Fizzle: No Relief Likely for California Drought

KQED Science | August 7, 2014 | 8 Comments

El Niño Fizzle: No Relief Likely for California Drought

Odds of a strong pattern of warm Pacific waters forming in time to bring winter rains are diminishing.

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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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