Photo: The American River in Northern California swollen with melting snow from the Sierra.
The barrage of storms that pounded the Sierra Nevada this winter and spring added up to a snowpack that’s massive. Amid a major heat wave all of that snow is now melting — and fast. How fast? The snow level on Mt. Whitney rose 1,000 feet this week.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle Story
Read the Chronicle’s story on Mt. Whitney
Don Cameron, general manager of Terranova Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, is flooding 700 acres of olive groves, baby pistachio trees, alfalfa and wine grapes with water from the Kings River. “We have a great reservoir under our feet,” he says. “Why not use it?”
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Photo: Yosemite National Park on April 5, 2017 (National Park Service)
Jay Lund, Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at University of California, Davis, said of the recently ended drought, “We lost a third of our water supply and the impact to the agricultural economy was a 2-3 percent loss and urban economy had almost no economic impact. To me that’s remarkable.” Past droughts may be why California’s economy and most jobs made it through the driest four-year period on record, because each drought brings changes in water policy that bolster our resilience.
Read the San Jose Mercury News story
Photo: Associated Press
PRESS RELEASE FROM GOVERNOR’S OFFICE:
SACRAMENTO – Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter rain and snow, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today ended the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after rainfall.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said Governor Brown. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. Today’s order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four drought–related executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015.
Executive Order B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B-37-16, which remains in effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California:
- The State Water Resources Control Board will maintain urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
- The state will continue its work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.
In a related action, state agencies today issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Governor Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts.
Although the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state starting in the winter of 2011-12 are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.
The full text of today’s executive order can be found here.
California’s Drought Response
The drought that spanned water years 2012 through 2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record (2012-2015) and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, with 5 percent of average). It was marked by extraordinary heat: 2014, 2015 and 2016 were California’s first, second and third warmest year in terms of statewide average temperatures.
The state responded to the emergency with actions and investments that also advanced the California Water Action Plan, the Administration’s five-year blueprint for more reliable, resilient water systems to prepare for climate change and population growth. To advance the priorities of the Water Action Plan and respond to drought, the voters passed a comprehensive water bond, the Legislature appropriated and accelerated funding and state agencies accelerated grants and loans to water projects.
California also enacted the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, took action to improve measurement and management of water, retrofitted tens of thousands of inefficient toilets, replaced lawns with water-wise landscaping and provided safe drinking water to impacted communities.
Californians also responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25 percent average reduction in urban water use across the state.
If just five more inches of precipitation falls in the Northern Sierra before September 30, then 2017 would become the wettest year on record in California. What are the chances? Pretty good, actually. A new storm is forecast to drop two to six inches of rain and snow in the region today through Sunday. Even if you don’t read the whole San Francisco Chronicle story, enjoy the slideshow of the snow levels in Lake Tahoe.
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Last week, Helix’s confined space rescue team held their quarterly safety training in Lakeside in conjunction with Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa.
Confined spaces are areas large enough for employees to enter and perform work, are not intended for continued occupancy, and have restricted entry and exit points.
Helix has a variety of confined spaces including pipelines, water storage tanks and underground vaults. District staff regularly enters these spaces for inspections and maintenance to ensure the integrity of our infrastructure. There are 37 miles of pipe 30-inches and larger in diameter, a portion of which is inspected from the inside annually.
To ensure workers stay safe, Helix follows Cal/OSHA safety protocols that include permit issuance, continuous air monitoring, ventilation, the use of harnesses and retrieval systems, emergency whistles and stand-by rescue personnel on site. \
The rescue personnel are members of the district’s confined space rescue team. The team is made up of nine volunteer employees who receive no extra compensation for these duties. Although OSHA requires annual drills, Helix’s team conducts quarterly drills and training to ensure everyone is prepared in case an emergency arises during confined space work.
Captain Tom Brown, firefighter/paramedic Kyle Tasco and engineer Scott Norris, Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa, practice maneuvering themselves and their rescue equipment through the tight confines of a 36-inch pipe.