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Wet Weather Fails to Lift California Drought


Levels of California Reservoirs. Click for updated map.
March 6, 2014 - Recent rains in California were insufficient to alleviate the drought in the Golden State, leaving reservoirs and snowpacks woefully below average as the spring agricultural season approaches.

The California Drought Task Force said that snowpacks were 20 percent of average for this time of year. Further, the reservoirs, shown in the map to the right, are far below average.

These inadequate supplies have induced serious conservation and rationing measures. The California State Water Project, the largest public water utility in the world, has told customers not to expect state water.

In response to the drought Gov. Jerry Brown Feb. 28 signed a $687 billion drought relief bill sent to him by the state legislature. The new law calls for a bond issue of almost a half billion dollars for water projects.

Extreme and Exceptional Drought
This curtailment is falling on some very thirsty jurisdictions. In the last week of February and the first of March all but two of California's 58 counties experienced, either in part or in whole, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.

The rains slightly lessened the areas extreme or exceptional drought with the state and filled the state's reservoirs a small amount. But the Drought Monitor and state officials still warned that the problem is persistent.

Higher Food Prices Expected
Agriculture is a $44 billion industry in California. Reduction in yields raise food prices throughout the country and the world and have ripple effects on the state's economy.

Prices of produce, especially the export cash crop of almonds, are expected to increase this season as the drought cripples the farmers ability to irrigate their almond groves. Farmers with annual crops are allowing their lands (perhaps as much as 500,000 acres) to go fallow.

The effect of the drought can even be seen in a crop such as hay. A USDA market report shows that a ton of good hay in California costs between $235 and $280, whereas in Idaho, Oregon or Colorado (states that have seen the drought abate) the price is closer to $200 per ton.

River Flows Affect Fish and WIldlife
The drought has also threatened fish and wildlife in California. The state banned fishing in several parts of the state, including stretches of the American and Russian Rivers, in at attempt to preserve stocks of fish.

The US Bureau of Reclamation said it is providing smaller allocations to users, including nature and wildlife reserves are receiving much smaller allocations of water.

This year salmon harvesting is not expected, at the moment, to require restrictions because salmon which spawned in fresh waters last year are now at sea, out of the range of the drought. However, biologists are keeping an eye on water levels in inland spawning grounds to forecast future stocks.

A bill that would allow operation of major water projects without regard for the federal Endangered Species Act has passed the US House of Representatives. A different California drought-relief bill has been introduced in the Senate and would require that the state comply with the Endangered Species Act.


California Drought Update Click for a Full Timeline


Drought - Stories, Links and Resources

News from our recommended reading list
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Drought
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Extreme Weather Channel

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Links for the search term: Drought

National Geographic Video on a drought lease program for the Yampa River
The video describes how the Colorado River Trust leased water allocations from willing sellers, such as a water district, to augment the flow of water in the Yampa River. The drought in the west had lowered the flow of the Yampa, harming businesses, fish, wildlife and agriculture.

'Middle Eastern Studies' Article on the role of drought in Syria's uprising
The author argues that the bad response of the Syrian government to the drought was the proximate trigger of the revolution.

Robert Pielke Jr.'s data on hurricane landfalls

Mesonet
From the Web site: " Definition of "Mesonet"

"Mesonet" is a combination of the words "mesoscale" and "network".

In meteorology, "mesoscale" refers to weather events that range in size from about one mile to about 150 miles. Mesoscale events last from several minutes to several hours. Therefore, mesoscale weather events are phenomenon that might go undetected without densely spaced weather observations. Thunderstorms, wind gusts, heatbursts, and drylines, are examples of mesoscale events.

A "network" is an interconnected system.

Thus, the Oklahoma Mesonet is a system designed to measure the environment at the size and duration of mesoscale weather events."


California Drought Timeline

2014
Jan 31
The California State Water Project said that because of the drought its customers should not expect to receive any water supplies from state sources.
Feb 28
The California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law approving $687 million in drought relief. Of this $549 would come from newly issued bonds, $40 would be transferred from the state's Greenhouse Reduction Fund, the remainder coming from the state treasury.