Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

The Water Data Drought

AS a nation, we have become disciples of data. We interview 60,000 families a month to determine the unemployment rate, we monitor how much energy we use every seven days, Amazon ranks sales of every book it sells every hour.

Then there is water.

Water may be the most important item in our lives, our economy and our landscape about which we know the least. We not only don’t tabulate our water use every hour or every day, we don’t do it every month, or even every year.

The official analysis of water use in the United States is done every five years. It takes a tiny team of people four years to collect, tabulate and release the data. In November 2014, the United States Geological Survey issued its most current comprehensive analysis of United States water use — for the year 2010.

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Source:  Charles Fishman, The Opinion Pages, NY Times, March 17, 2016


Rain Brings Hope After Years of Calif. Drought

Published on Mar 16, 2016

Recent storms have replenished several key reservoirs in Northern California, but the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick says El Nino still hasn’t brought enough rain and snow to end the state’s historic drought, now entering its fifth year. (March 16).

Source:  Associated Press, March 16, 2016

National Drought Summary for March 15, 2016

The Far West

A steady stream of Pacific fronts brought precipitation to parts of the Far West every day this USDM week. The precipitation fell as rain at the lower elevations, with 1 to 2 feet of new snow measured at the higher-elevation SNOTEL sites in the Cascades and parts of the Sierra Nevada. Mountain snowpack was near to above average at most of the high elevation SNOTEL sites across the Far West. Ten inches or more of precipitation occurred in favored upslope areas of northern California to Washington, with 2 inches or more from central California to Washington. Precipitation amounts dropped off to the lee of the mountains and in Southern California, with essentially no precipitation falling along the California-Arizona border. This week’s precipitation, coupled with last week’s, totaled over 20 inches in the favored upslope locations. While it improved mountain snowpack and reservoir levels, significant precipitation deficits remained across California from the state’s 4 to 5 year drought.

D1-D4 were pulled back in northern to central California and along the coast based on several criteria. Improvements were made where 6-month precipitation deficits were erased and reservoir levels were restored to average for this date. As of March 14, near-average reservoirs included Shasta Reservoir (106% of average), Folsom Lake (120%), and Lake Oroville (101%). Napa County reservoirs are all full, apart from Berryessa. But most of the other California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reservoirs were still below-average, including Trinity Lake in the north (at 60% of average). The surface soils were saturated due to the recent rains, but the deeper groundwater levels had not recovered. Wells were still going dry in Tuolumne County and deficits continued in groundwater and reservoir levels supplying areas such as San Joaquin County. DWR March 14 statistics showed mountain snowpack snow water content (SWE) at 100% of the April 1 average in the Northern region, 90% in the Central region, and 77% in the Southern region. With a near to below-normal mountain snowpack, streamflow is expected to be near to below normal during this summer at current projections.

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Source:  Richard Heim, NOAA/NCEI, US Drought Monitor, March 15, 2016

221 drought maps show just how thirsty California has become

221 drought maps show just how thirsty California has become

The majority of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought despite El Niño-related precipitation in recent weeks and the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report said the state’s drought situation still remains “very serious.”

The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

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Source:  Kyle Kim and Thomas Suh Lauder, LA Times, March 17, 2016

Is El Niño Finally Ending California’s Drought?

It depends on how you define “drought.”

This was supposed to be California’s year.

After three years of an unprecedented drought, a “Godzilla” El Niño formed in the western Pacific. Previous years with strong El Niños had been unusually wet, with the warm patch sending one wet system after another rolling into the region. California had essentially missed two years’ worth of precipitation. Surveying the wet season to come last fall, meteorologists said that El Niño was how it might restore the balance.

Now, six weeks remain in the state’s annual rainy season, and results are mixed. Rain is drenching the Bay Area this weekend, but California as a whole seems on track to have only an average precipitation year.

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Source:  Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, March 7, 2016

Where We Agree: Building Consensus on Solutions to California’s Urban Water Challenges


California has a long list of unresolved and difficult water challenges, made more urgent by the severe drought that is gripping the state.  As the state’s population continues to grow and climate changes become increasingly apparent, the pressures to identify and implement solutions to these critical challenges have only intensified.

Recognizing an urgent need for serious changes in the way water is managed and used in the state, a broad array of stakeholders saw an opportunity to move beyond the traditional rancor and conflict by coming together to identify pragmatic and achievable solutions to urban water challenges.

During 2015, the Pacific Institute, in partnership with the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association, UC Berkeley Water Center, and UC Davis Extension’s Collaboration Center, coordinated a series of in-depth Where We Agree meetings. This unique effort provided participants opportunities to set aside differences and explore water technologies and policies that would have broad support. Together, they generated a set of practical recommendations for policymakers, municipal water managers, businesses, and community groups.

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Source:  Heather Cooley, Peter H. Gleick, Kristina Donnelly, Jeff Loux, Tim Worley and David Sedlak; The Pacific Institute, March 9, 2016

Prop 1 Funding for storage projects: An overview of the Water Storage Investment Program

lake sonoma

With the passage of Proposition 1 in November of 2014, voters approved $7.5 billion for a variety of water projects and programs, with $2.7 billion of that set aside to pay for public benefits of water storage projects. The California Water Commission is the state agency tasked with allocating the money among eligible projects, and over one year since passage of the bond, the Commission preparing to begin the official rulemaking process for the regulations that will govern how the money will be spent.

The Commission’s program to distribute funding is formally known the Water Storage Investment Program.  At the fall conference of the Association of California Water Agencies, Paula Landis, Executive Officer of the California Water Commission, briefed attendees on the details of the program.

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Source:  Maven, Maven’s Notebook, December 14, 2015