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Drought Watch 2015

Pine Lake Flat on  April 1, 2015. Dan Brekke/KQED)

Pine Lake Flat on April 1, 2015. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

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.

How Bad Is It?

It’s bad. After heavy rains raised hopes in December, what should have been the heart of the rainy season then turned into the driest January-March period on record, exacerbated by record-high temperatures. Firmly into the fourth year of drought, one of the state’s top water regulators calls it “the most serious challenge our generation has ever faced.” In April, Governor Jerry Brown issued a first-ever executive order mandating statewide reductions in water use.

More than two-thirds of California remains in “extreme” drought, with more than 40 percent of the state in “exceptional” drought, the most extreme category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Oakland Startup Tries to Change the Value of Water

KQED Science | May 27, 2015

Oakland Startup Tries to Change the Value of Water

Water is cheaper in California than you might think. Just as it is in most of the United States, it's less than a penny a gallon. That is because water is delivered to residents exactly at cost. There are no extra fees or charges on this vital resource. This raises ...Read More

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In California, Technology Makes Droughtshaming Easier Than Ever

KQED Science | May 26, 2015 | 1 Comment

In California, Technology Makes Droughtshaming Easier Than Ever

As California's drought continues, social media and smart phone apps let just about anyone call out water waste, often very publicly.

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Californians Worried About Drought, But Uneasy About Conservation

KQED Science | May 19, 2015 | 2 Comments

Californians Worried About Drought, But Uneasy About Conservation

Nearly nine in ten Californians believe the drought is serious, according to a new California Field Poll. But only about half say they could easily use less water.

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A Short Run for Some California Whitewater Rivers This Season

KQED Science | May 18, 2015

A Short Run for Some California Whitewater Rivers This Season

Justin Butchert drops bags of ice into huge coolers and lifts them onto his pickup truck. “This is our only form of refrigeration up there,” says Butchert, owner of Kings River Expeditions. He's referring to his company's base camp on the Kings River, east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada. The ...Read More

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As Delta Smelt Nears Extinction, New Concerns Emerge Over Dredging

KQED Science | May 13, 2015 | 2 Comments

As Delta Smelt Nears Extinction, New Concerns Emerge Over Dredging

The tiny Delta smelt is famous for being a target in California's water wars, but it's dangerously close to extinction. That's bringing attention to anything that could harm the fish, including something rarely discussed: dredging Delta waterways for big cargo ships.

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Will California Drought Force Changes In Historic Water Rights?

KQED Science | May 11, 2015 | 18 Comments

Will California Drought Force Changes In Historic Water Rights?

Here’s the thing: Water rights in California are based on who got there first. It’s as if you had to line up with all your coworkers to get a cup of coffee at work, and maybe the pot’s empty when the new guy gets to the front. Some are asking, in a drought like the one we’ve been having, is that really fair?

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‘Aggressive’ New Drought Rules for California: Now Comes the Hard Part

KQED Science | May 6, 2015 | 6 Comments

‘Aggressive’ New Drought Rules for California: Now Comes the Hard Part

State officials officially hand the ball to local water agencies to squeeze 25 percent more water savings out of their customers. And ultimately, it is up to those customers to respond -- or not.

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State Passes Historic Water Conservation Rules

KQED Science | May 4, 2015 | 5 Comments

State Passes Historic Water Conservation Rules

The state-mandated water conservation "tiers" assigned to local water agencies don't tell the whole story. Some cities are already there, some have a lot more work to do.

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Governor Brown’s New Climate Offensive in Five Jerryesque Quotes

KQED Science | April 30, 2015 | 1 Comment

Governor Brown’s New Climate Offensive in Five Jerryesque Quotes

In promoting his new greenhouse gas reduction targets, the governor invokes World War II, climate-change deniers in Washington, and the recycled toilet water in our future.

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State Mostly Standing Its Ground on Tough New Water Rules

KQED Science | April 28, 2015 | 3 Comments

State Mostly Standing Its Ground on Tough New Water Rules

The governor offers help with enforcement but no easing of conservation targets for local water suppliers.

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Amid California’s Drought, Should Cemeteries Stay Green?

KQED Science | April 27, 2015 | 1 Comment

Amid California’s Drought, Should Cemeteries Stay Green?

New drought restrictions are prompting cemetery managers to look at the water they use to keep lawns green. Some worry that for family members who visit this summer, parched grass might feel like insult on top of loss.

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When City Codes Clash With State Water Rules, Confusion Reigns

KQED Science | April 22, 2015 | 4 Comments

When City Codes Clash With State Water Rules, Confusion Reigns

Esthetics and water conservation clash as California cities find their own laws at odds with the governor's water reduction mandates.

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Southern California Court Strikes Down Town’s ‘Conservation’ Water Rates

KQED Science | April 20, 2015

Southern California Court Strikes Down Town’s ‘Conservation’ Water Rates

Gov. Brown blasts ruling that some fear could outlaw a valuable tool to enforce water savings.

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Wealthy Woodside Is Among State’s Top Water Wasters

KQED Science | April 19, 2015

Wealthy Woodside Is Among State’s Top Water Wasters

The rural town of Woodside combines the leafy luxury of Marin County with the remoteness of Mendocino. Woodside is nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, but its rustic setting off scenic Highway 280 south of San Francisco is anything but high tech. Woodside has a swanky Zip ...Read More

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Regulators Float New Drought Rules After Feedback Frenzy

KQED Science | April 18, 2015 | 7 Comments

Regulators Float New Drought Rules After Feedback Frenzy

Water agencies win some relief valves in the latest version of draft water regulations designed to achieve the governor's 25 percent statewide savings.

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A Last-Ditch Drought Strategy for the Delta: Rock Barriers

KQED Science | April 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

A Last-Ditch Drought Strategy for the Delta: Rock Barriers

Meager river flows may not be enough to stem the tide of salt water that threatens freshwater supplies.

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In Drought-Stricken California, How Much Water Does Agriculture Use?

Forum | April 15, 2015

In Drought-Stricken California, How Much Water Does Agriculture Use?

Agriculture consumes about 40 percent of the state's water, or 80 percent of water available for human use. Critics question the viability of growing water-intensive crops like almonds and rice, but others argue the state's water woes are too complex to pin on a single industry.

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The Next Crime Wave in Farm Country: Stealing Water

KQED Science | April 9, 2015

The Next Crime Wave in Farm Country: Stealing Water

Madera County's DA tries to get out in front of an expected wave of water-related thefts.

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Water Conservation Ebbs as Governor Calls for Greater Effort

KQED Science | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Water Conservation Ebbs as Governor Calls for Greater Effort

The latest figures on water conservation in California would seem to bear out the need for more strict, mandatory measures, such as the governor recently announced.

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Confusion Over Drought Rules on Lawns for New Homes

KQED Science | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Confusion Over Drought Rules on Lawns for New Homes

Builders and developers are pondering the governor's new water mandates -- and scratching their heads.

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