Bear tracks in the mud at Shasta Lake in early Fall, 2013.

Last year was the driest year on record in California — and not much rainfall is expected in the near future. Leading lawmakers and farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are calling on Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a drought, which would trigger conservation measures. We discuss the implications of drought conditions and what should be done.

Should Gov. Brown Declare a Statewide Drought? 14 January,2014forum

Chris Brown, director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council
Jeff Mount, professor emeritus of geology, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences
Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Shaun Lornce, general manager of the San Juan Water District

  • Ehkzu

    Global warming means more uncertain weather for California–so we may be experiencing the new normal, including a less certain water supply. Yet the state legislature has ordered Bay Area cities to increase their populations substantially, turning towns into mini-Manhattans along their main corridors. This is yet another example of the state government considering issues in isolation, without considering the broader consequences. One of which is obviously going to be strict water rationing and the elimination of lawns and fountains.

    • jurgispilis

      In a broader sense, the State is in a frenzy attracting people to move here both from other states as well as from abroad. Tech workers to staff the start-ups, crop pickers to bring in the lettuce, taxi drivers, students to populate the universities, etc. It’s nuts! California can no longer offer these people an attractive quality of life.

  • CPounds

    If Governor Brown calls this drought, then shouldn’t “fracking” be banned? How is it OK to poison our ground water, not to mention all the water wasted in the actual process?

  • i_witness

    Is it true that EBMUD has a different rate structure for the inner East Bay and those beyond the Caldecott Tunnel, where the latter have lower volume rates? It seems that Inner East Bay residents already use much less, have much less that the can continue to save, but have higher rates. It does not encourage much conversation in the Valley either. Can EBMUD provide their thinking on this? There’s nothing left for me to conserve.

  • Jack Wilcock

    Does sub-metering in a common interest subdivision significantly reduce water use and if so, what is being done to encourage or reward installing meters?

  • This drought is indeed unfortunate for many in the west, but not entirely
    unexpected. Given the possibility of more drought in the future perhaps
    it is time for a National Water Policy. A National framework that draws
    from wisdom of a number of recent publications calling for a renewal of
    Water Basin Commissions similar to those in the 1962 Water Resources
    Planning Act. We cannot continue to rely on reactive measures in the
    future and California is not alone in western hydrologic regions.

  • Michael Diggles

    Hi Jeff. You gave a talk for us at the Peninsula Geological Society in February 1998 on Flooding In The West. Would you be willing to give our group a talk next month on Drought In The West? Thanks. –Mike Diggles

  • Robert J. Liebsch

    Another item: what impact will this have on the bottled water industry? Nestle bottles “from a public source in Sacramento.” Will the bottled water industry get squeezed by drought and rules related, or simply hike the price because they can continue to pull from the water supply and charge extraordinary prices?

  • Ehkzu

    The only reason we’re talking about water supply issues is overpopulation. For example, the Bay Area’s population has doubled in size since the 1960s. Yet Forum will not even broach the topic–even when it’s the elephant in the back yard, as was the case with this topic. It’s as if overpopulation is sacrosanct–not to be addressed, for some reason.

    And heaven forbid we discuss the state’s mandate to increase the population in many Bay Area cities even as we’re running short of water.

    Last time I checked, people need water.

    • Kurt thialfad

      Forum simply can not connect the dots. Forum has a failure of imagination. Thank you for your insight.
      A later post mentions we need to have a National Water Policy. Why not have a National Population Policy? Though it may be water today, tomorrow it may be food shortage, poverty, building on floodplains, disease, destruction by tornadoes and hurricanes, etc. All of our crises of modern times have a population element to them, which is patently ignored unless in hindsight.

    • jurgispilis

      We have this global crisis that has been framed in differing terms. First, it was the ozone hole, then the greenhouse gas effect, then global warming, now climate change. When are they going to call it by it’s real name – human overpopulation?

  • Luiza C

    Please, don’t get me wrong: we will need to save water. However, while listening to the program, I heard the current “authorities” complaining about the overuse of water. Well… I remembered that a few years ago, 2 to be more precise, we had a water bill increase because, guess what?, we were consuming too little! Can someone make up their minds in this government? Or do they think we are all dumb and forget everything … Here is the link for the article in 2011:

  • chrisnfolsom

    Instead of spending $11Billion on pipes why don’t we build a few new dams, buy how many cysterns or brown water reclamation systems? Also a reverse osmosis plant in Australia for $3 Billion for a 410,00 m3/day or 168cfs which is about 20% of Folsom Dam’s 800cfs current flow. For $12Billion *optimistically* we could build 4 plants generating 80% of Folsom’s release which could be used to help drought proofing our future – I know they take power and such, but that is an option.

    • Xylem

      Chris- I don’t believe these kinds of massive engineering projects are the answer — please see the comments above (after) yours for what i think are the real issues that need addressing. -XTG

  • Menelvagor

    most places in the southwest are uninhabitable except in tribal numbers. You do not belong there. We should not be diverting water to the southwest. The Colorado river system flowed to the sea once.

  • 1776revisited

    There is a combination of problems with the state of water in California.
    1. Over population and long term unsustainable development has driven us to a fine line on water supply and availability.
    2. Equally important is the under utilization of numerous proposed dam projects that would have stored enormous amounts of water during wet years to get us through these dry years. None of them have been constructed for varying reasons, most notably, environmental lawsuits pertaining to fish and wildlife.
    3. The dollar always seems to outway the sustainability in this state. Push every project through then figure out afterwords how to deal with the environmental ramifications
    So in otherwords, I support building more dams to sustain our population long term but not if it is viewed as a means to bring millions of more people into this state. Additionally, I agree with the environmental concerns of the dam projects but not to the detriment of every Californian.
    Lets use some common sense people!

  • Renergize

    Regarding the drought: for years I have supported the activities of Save the Rain, a nonprofit that helps Africans living in remote areas to harvest and store rainwater from their roofs ( We should be using similar techniques in California. A huge amount of rainwater can be harvested from the roof of a home. Instead the water is going down streets laden with oils and polluting the ocean. I recommend that Forum do a followup show that highlights some of the ways water could be saved and stored. Simply terracing one’s yard can help stop the waste of water. A good resource is “Rainwater Harvest for Drylands and Beyond” by Brad Lancaster.

  • kcwest

    Just like to ask why the water companies are not required to behave more responsibly? There was a water leak on our street that ran for five days releasing at least 100,000 gallons of water into the sewer. Our San Jose Water Company kept telling us it was no big deal, there’s no drought and plenty of water. A number of people on our street were calling several times a day and getting the same answer. I wanted to post sooner but busy. I filmed the water and posted it on facebook as proof.

  • tom

    a good start to the problem of lack of water would be to send all of the illegals back to mexico.

  • tom

    a good solution for more water is to send all of the illegals back to mexico. that is what I meant to say

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