The now-dry Almaden Reservoir in San Jose

California faces what may be its worst drought in modern history. At least 17 communities and water districts in the state could run out of water within 100 days. On Tuesday, state and federal officials announced a $20 million aid package for agricultural water conservation. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on a GOP-backed drought relief bill which Governor Jerry Brown has called “unwelcome and divisive.” We’ll get the latest on the environmental and political fallout from the drought.

Despite Recent Rain, Drought Fears Escalate 5 February,2014forum

Paul Rogers, managing editor of KQED Science and environmental reporter for the San Jose Mercury News
Jeanine Jones, deputy drought manager with the California Department of Water Resources
Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and author of "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water"
Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency

  • CharliePeters

    Audit the fed

  • Adrian Wood-Smith

    I’m always amazed at the ways difficulties can bring people together. Did you hear about the rain prayer that the Muslim community held in Pleasanton? It rained the day after.

    • Billy Lipps

      Right, the magic sky man made it rain simply because they asked. Or they prayed the day before the weather was forecast to rain.

  • Bill Wolpert

    If all indications are that we are facing the worst drought ever recorded, why aren’t we facing mandatory water conservation now? What’s the downside to conservation?

  • Kurt thialfad

    Can you discuss plans to take some San Francisco residents off of Hetch Hechy water, and on to well water.

  • Guest

    Water is precious. All the more reason why water districts like SFPUC should not be poisoning our water by dumping ammonia into it, which is what chloramination involves. It is quite stupid. In a region with so many PhD’s it is bizarre that our water is not safe to drink because the people deciding how to make it safe are reasoning like high school dropouts.

  • America

    Here’s one thing people can do to help: Quit using shampoo and conditioner. And your hair will thank you too. Sounds petty but multiplied by the millions, it can make a difference.

    • Mrdioji

      Do to help what? How?

  • Avis Licht

    Since farming uses the most water in California, one thing we can do is grow food in our own yards. We can be more efficient, less energy used in transportation, less packaging and fresher and healthier food. We call it Edible landscaping and it is becoming more popular. There are ways to garden that are more water efficient and people need to learn these methods. Another important water use is grey water. Most towns and cities make it difficult for people to set up grey water systems.
    I’ve been a landscaper and gardener for more than 40 years and write a blog called Edible Landscaping Made Easy. I am focusing on drought and how to keep your garden alive and thriving using less water.
    Please give my blog a visit, it has a lot of information:

    • samrivers

      Where did you get the idea that farming is the “highest use” os water in the State?

      • Avis Licht

        if you look on any website devoted towards agricultural use of water in California you’ll find that it’s listed as between 60 and 80 percent of total use of water in California goes towards agriculture.

        • samrivers

          If that’s what you meant by “highest use” you are absolutely right. I mistakenly thought you meant most important use with the highest priority under law.

      • Ted Swift

        I presume/hope Avis means “farming uses most of the human-transported water in California”. “Highest use” carries -intentionally or not- some moral implications which, in context, may not have been Avis’s intent.

    • thucy

      That’s terrific, but it only applies to people who actually have enough space to grow food. That usually means property ownership. In the Bay Area, that’s mostly wealthy white people.

      In a micro-apartment, you’re not going to increase efficiency by trying to grow arugula.

      • Avis Licht

        This is not longer the case. There are more community gardens in cities than ever before. Neighborhood groups are getting together to share/use land for growing food together. In Oakland, many folks of color have their own homes and are being helped to put in food gardens by volunteer organizations. Check out City Slicker Farms.
        ” City Slicker Farms organizes low-income children, youth and adults in West Oakland to grow, distribute and eat more organic produce.

        We do this through the following programs:

        Community Market Farms Program – established in 2001

        Transforms empty lots into productive market farms, providing access to nutritious food in a community with limited access.

        Backyard Garden Program – established in 2005

        Gives people the tools and know-how to grow food in their own yards.

        Urban Farming Education Program – established in 2001

        Provides training opportunities and disseminates urban agriculture and gardening information, knowledge, and skills.

        Policy Advocacy Initiative – established in 2005

        Advocates for food justice in Oakland by raising awareness about and organizing people to support urban agriculture and equal access to healthy food.

        Consulting Services – established in 2008

        Provides technical assistance through our fee-based consulting program to help other communities replicate our programs.”

        It’s time to stop being cynical and see what’s happening around you.

        Folks in apartments with balconies can grow fresh herbs in pots. Even a few fresh herbs and greens can make a difference. I have taught hundreds of young people how to sow seed and grow a lettuce plant at home. They are so excited to do this. It opens them up to eating more fresh vegetables.

  • Skip Conrad

    What is the optimal population size for California?

  • Tamir lance

    Why can’t we just build a water pipeline from the east coast to the west coast. Let’s take all the jobs that would have gone to keystone XL and put them to a more productive use.

  • michael

    I live near a car wash, and the constant use of water at this, and many other car washes, astounds me. Could the state not regulate these car washes to three days a week or less, while providing supplemental income?

  • Kim Flaherty

    It’s shocking all the talk about not flushing toilets and turning the tap off while brushing one’s teeth as efforts to save water instead of discussing how more than half of all freshwater used in California goes to raising animals for food. According to statistics from the Water Footprint Network, a pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water to produce while a gallon of milk takes 880 gallons. In contrast, 132 gallons of water are needed to grow a pound of wheat and 216 gallons to produce a pound of soybeans. Why aren’t our leaders talking about this? Why aren’t they calling for a reduction in animal agriculture as a means to save water?

    If we really care about conserving water — both for the drought at hand and for other droughts that are sure to follow as planet Earth heats up — then we should stop subsidizing and supporting the incredibly destructive and wasteful livestock industry and reward those who grow (and eat) only plants instead.

    • Billy Lipps

      Cattle owners are selling their stocks right now to make up for this, but your idea is essentially trying to get people from eating meat. Good luck with that.

      • Jamie

        It’s not entirely about persuading people to eat less meat. As Kim mentioned, the government subsidizes this industry which allows for more meat, dairy, and egg production. In addition, these subsidies allow for lower costs for consumers, which allows them to buy more of these products. If the government stops subsidizing these industries or at least cuts their subsidies, less of these products would be produced and in turn less water would be used.

        • Billy Lipps

          So how do you compare that to corn and soy subsidies in the mid-west? Les production of something doesn’t mean less demand, it just equates to higher prices.

          • Mrdioji

            Less demand for corn-finished beef from factory farm operations will lower corn demand. Just as beef is highly inefficient from a water standpoint, it is also highly inefficient from a food in-food out standpoint – I don’t have the numbers.

          • Billy Lipps

            How people still eat corn-fed beef is beyond me. I guess as kids they always let their cows out into the corn fields for dinner-time?

          • Jamie

            Corn and soy are so highly subsidized because these are fed to animals. From the USDA website:

            “Processed soybeans are the world’s largest source of animal protein feed ”

            “Corn is the most widely produced feed grain in the United States, with most of the crop providing the main energy ingredient in livestock feed.”

            Animal agriculture farmers don’t just get direct subsidies, they also get subsidies byway of the artificially cheap feed that they purchase for the animals.

    • Ian Thornton

      Do you drink wine or beer? Those are also increadibly water inefficient ways to produce a beverage. Be careful of telling others they are doing “to much” or doing something “wrong”, because then it can be applied to you. For all of us that don’t drink alcohol, should we be able to say subsididies for vineyards and grains and hops for beer should stop because it is wasteful?

  • disqus_iscvPPLxqK

    Regarding ocean water, can we simply use ocean water to flush our toilets? I ask because Hong Kong does this for 10 million people.

    • Mrdioji

      It sounds like a good idea, but logistically it would be very difficult. We have a hard enough time already trying to maintain our existing infrastructure. This would require a whole new system of parallel pipes in streets, and new internal plumbing in buildings. Also, I’m not sure how the pipes would hold up to corrosive saltwater. Disposing of high TDS water would also pose a problem.
      The better solution would be to expand reclaimed wastewater use. This would still require vast infrastructure improvements, but unlike saltwater, could be used for irrigation as well.

  • Diane Robinson

    Isn’t some of the largest residential consumption of water used for landscaping? Is it reasonable to mandate drought resistant landscaping? Why do so many scapes have Japanese Maples and other water-intensive scaping options in our dry climate?Cities like HIllsborough, municipalities in Marin County… I see absurd landscaping that sucks up an enormous amount of precious water for aesthetic preference.

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