Executive Summary for August 26th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary.

Published on Aug. 26, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

State Releases July Conservation Numbers on Thursday

Californians did well on water conservation in June, achieving a 27 percent water savings across the state, slightly surpassing the governor’s mandate of 25 percent. But it was only the first time that goal had been met.

Can we do it again?

That’s what we’ll find out Thursday, when the State Water Resources Control Board releases conservation data for July. We will also learn if the cities that missed their goals were able to reform. There were 140 of them, about one-third of California’s large urban water providers. Those that lagged more than 5 percent face the possibility of significant fines.

As we’ve reported previously, some water agencies simply don’t want to comply. The new data will prove who is serious. It will also reveal whether the state is serious about bringing water agencies into line with meaningful fines.

Bill to Fund Research into Atmospheric Rivers

California, Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, has offered a bill that would provide $9 million to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to research ways to harvest water from atmospheric rivers.

We wrote about atmospheric rivers yesterday, based on news out of the California Climate Change Symposium. Sometimes compared to a horizontal hurricane, an atmospheric river funnels high-velocity winds that pull huge quantities of tropical moisture across the Pacific Ocean. That moisture is concentrated in a narrow band, like a fire hose, that often targets a relatively small area of California, bringing torrential rain, deep snow – and sometimes dangerous flooding.

Block’s bill has been approved in the state Senate and now awaits a hearing the Assembly. Although the language is somewhat in flux, it appears what it would mainly do is direct DWR to operate its reservoirs differently to capture the rainfall delivered by atmospheric river storms. Currently, like most reservoirs, DWR’s are operated during winter with a certain amount of fixed empty space in order to capture floodwaters. This means it is required to release water stored in the reservoir, even if the state is in a drought. It’s a public safety measure.

But if DWR could anticipate accurately that an atmospheric river is expected to miss the watershed above the reservoir, it could hold on to the stored water instead, potentially easing a future drought.

That is the theory, at least. One drawback is that DWR operates only one significant reservoir in the state: Oroville, on the Feather River. It’s a big reservoir, the second largest in the state. But similar reservoir operation procedures are needed at every major reservoir in California, and the bill would do well to address this larger need somehow.

Coca Cola to Replenish 100 Percent of Water It Uses

By the end of this year, the Coca Cola Co. has vowed to become essentially “water neutral” by replacing all the water it uses in its factories through water recycling and conservation.

The company laid out the goal in 2007, and now says it will be reached at the end of 2015, five years ahead of schedule.

That means Coca-Cola is offsetting each gallon it uses by recycling or conserving a gallon somewhere in the world. The company relies on a mix of systems to accomplish this, including waste treatment at its plants and reforestation projects that help restore watersheds.

The project is meant to ensure the company will have enough water to meet its needs, as well as reassuring customers who may be concerned about drought in California and elsewhere.

“As a consumer of water, the Coca-Cola system has a special responsibility to protect this shared resource,” chief executive officer Muhtar Kent said in a statement.

Climate Change Leaves ‘No Way Out’ of Future Drought Disasters

We reported yesterday on one aspect of the California Climate Change Symposium, which was held Monday and Tuesday in Sacramento. Another view comes from the Torrance Daily Breeze newspaper. We’ll let this account speak for itself:

Photo courtesy by Sen. Marty Block

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