Executive Summary for October 30th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary, including the most important stories, analysis and data. Our goal is to keep you informed of the day’s most significant events in the field.

Published on Oct. 30, 2015 Read time Approx. 4 minutes

State Releasing Latest Water Conservation Stats Today

The California Water Resources Control Board will today release the latest data on statewide water conservation efforts.

This latest report will cover progress for September. As with the August report, the new data is likely to show a continued small reduction in conservation effort, which officials expected because temperatures have been cooling with the end of summer.

Big gains in water conservation are harder to achieve when property owners decrease landscape irrigation in cooler months, because that aspect of water use accounts for at least half of all consumption in most regions of California.

Also on Friday, state officials are expected to announce enforcement actions they plan to take against water agencies that have failed to meet their conservation targets. The overall goal statewide is 25 percent conservation, although this varies by agency based on their current water-use practices and conservation progress. Last month, the state issued 66 warning letters to water agencies that were not meeting their targets.

One of them is the city of Redlands, which achieved only a 22 percent saving in August – well short of its 30 percent requirement.

“This is a really aggressive goal,” Redlands spokesman Carl Baker told the Los Angeles Times. “If the state has other things we haven’t tried that we weren’t aware of, we’d be open to that.”

Who isn’t meeting the targets? The Los Angeles Times provides handy access to report cards on every water agency in the state.

In Other Conservation News: ‘Outing’ the Water Wasters

A number of media outlets are buzzing over the latest data dump from the East Bay Municipal Utility District. This agency, one of the largest in Northern California, is perhaps the only one in all of the states that has been willing to publicly name its most wasteful customers.

It makes for juicy reading. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it in yesterday’s story: “They are doctors, lawyers, athletes and titans of technology and finance. They live on well-kept estates in exclusive enclaves in tony towns. And they share a distinction – they’re still guzzling water as if California isn’t mired in a historic drought.”

The top 20 users consumed between 15 and 40 times more water than the average citizen, who uses about 250 gallons a day. Most of the heavy users live behind locked gates.

One of them is Adonal Foyle of Orinda, who played center for the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team for 10 seasons. Unlike some others, who gave pat answers or refused to talk with the media, Foyle “graciously took questioners on a tour of his terraced home,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Foyle said he had cut his watering in half, but has been struggling with water leaks.

“It was very disappointing to see my name on this list. This is something we’ve been trying to deal with for two years,” said Foyle, also the founder of Democracy Matters, which seeks to counteract the influence of big bucks in politics. “This is a very big issue in the Bay Area and we all have to do our part. I want to make sure everybody knows this is not acceptable.”

Foyle consumed an average of 2,979 gallons per day, putting him at No. 42 on the list of gratuitous water users.

Students Use New Technology to Map Groundwater

A team of students from Stanford University is using new technology derived from cellphones in an effort to peer deep underground to map groundwater.

This week, a helicopter swept 60 linear miles of parched fields in the Tulare Irrigation District in one of the most arid regions of California.

The low-flying helicopter system sent an electromagnetic pulse, about the same strength as that emitted by a cellphone, which then traveled into the Earth’s subsurface and returned to be measured by instruments on the helicopter. The data will be used to build a colorful three-dimensional map of the ground that identifies the regions of differing soils and water.

The technology, owned by a Danish company called SkyTEM, has been widely used in oil and mineral exploration in California, but never to survey groundwater.

“Medical imaging has revolutionized our approach to human health. This lets us do the same thing for groundwater, probing very deep,” Stanford geophysicist Rosemary Knight, who is leading the effort, told the San Jose Mercury News.

The goal is to create a 3D model – of sand, gravel, clay and water – to deduce the best place to effectively drill for water and also determine where water is needed to replenish an aquifer.

The nation of Denmark has used the same tool, originally developed at its Aarhus University, to map and monitor the nation’s entire groundwater supply. Why not California, too?

Top image: In this photo taken on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Steve Upton, a water conservation inspector for the City of Sacramento, climbs out of his truck to inspect an alleged water waste case. Numerous California water agencies have imposed mandatory restrictions on water use, but it has not been enough in some areas to meet state water conservation requirements. (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press)

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