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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.

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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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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Amid Drought, State Water Rights System Delivers a Rich Supply to a Few

News Fix | May 27, 2014

Amid Drought, State Water Rights System Delivers a Rich Supply to a Few

Some 'senior rights' holders can get virtually all the water they want as the rest of state cuts back. ...Read More

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Seven of 10 of California’s Most Polluted Beaches Are in Northern California

KQED Science | May 22, 2014 | 14 Comments

Seven of 10 of California’s Most Polluted Beaches Are in Northern California

The polluted beaches that made the 'Beach Bummers' list suffer from problems like poor circulation and outdated sewage systems.

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Report: Drought Impact on Farms No Problem for Economy — Yet

News Fix | May 21, 2014

Report: Drought Impact on Farms No Problem for Economy — Yet

Moody's Investors Service says even in agricultural counties, the financial effects are limited. ...Read More

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Sacramento Halfway Through Costly Water-Meter Marathon

News Fix | May 20, 2014

Sacramento Halfway Through Costly Water-Meter Marathon

Sacramento is nearly ten years into a program to install 100,000 water meters in homes. The project is running late and costs are ballooning.

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California Wildfires: Training for a Tough Season

KQED Science | May 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

California Wildfires: Training for a Tough Season

Seasonal firefighters started training months earlier than usual this year. It may seem like common sense that it's dry out there, but there is a science to knowing how dry, and to knowing when the threat of wildfire is at its worst.

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Bay Area Weather: It’s Hot, Our Air Is Bad, and Watch Out for Fire

News Fix | May 12, 2014

Bay Area Weather: It’s Hot, Our Air Is Bad, and Watch Out for Fire

Don't be deceived by a balmy Monday: Region is in for an early heat wave starting Tuesday. ...Read More

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Drought Tech: How Solar Desalination Could Help Parched Farms

KQED Science | May 9, 2014 | 4 Comments

Drought Tech: How Solar Desalination Could Help Parched Farms

While coastal communities debate the merits of desalting seawater as a drought solution, a new approach to desalination could be a boon to farmers far inland.

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California Drought: Hopes Rising for El Niño

KQED Science | May 8, 2014 | 1 Comment

California Drought: Hopes Rising for El Niño

A strong summer El Niño could set the stage for a wet winter -- or not. Forecasters say it's still early in the game.

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Auburn Dam: The Water Project That Won’t Die

KQED Science | April 30, 2014 | 3 Comments

Auburn Dam: The Water Project That Won’t Die

The giant dam and reservoir remains on the radar, whether or not it has a future.

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