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Executive Summary for November 6th

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 Nov. 6, 2015 Read time Approx. 4 minutes

Los Angeles Urging Homeowners to Capture Stormwater

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday unveiled a $25,000 system at a North Hollywood resident’s home that can capture as much as 7,000 gallons of rainwater per year.

The fancy system captures water in a 1,300-gallon cistern, routed from the home’s roof. It is equipped with censors and computers that detect when rain is forecast, automatically emptying the cistern into a swale on the property so it can percolate into the ground and be ready to capture more rain.

Officials acknowledged the system is probably too expensive for most homeowners. Even so, they hope to inspire others to build rainwater catchment systems to make the most of winter rains.

A simpler catchment system can be built for around $3,000, and the city Department of Water and Power is considering offering rebates to encourage more people to build them.

“If (the drought) is the new normal, this will give us water for a long time,” said Garcetti, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Such systems have additional benefits: On a large scale, they can reduce flood volumes during large storms, potentially avoiding damage to property and infrastructure.

“When you capture the water and control it, it gives you a flood protection system that we don’t have now,” Andy Lipkis, president of the group TreePeople, told ABC7 News.

Water Technology Patents Increased in 2014

A report released on Thursday shows that patents issued to California inventors for water-related projects increased by 11 percent in 2014 compared to the prior year.

California led the nation in water-related patents, receiving 137 patents in 2014, or 16 percent of the national total. Texas was a distant second, with 73 water-related patents received.

The report was issued by Next10.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group based in San Francisco.

“Californians are used to answering the call for innovative solutions,” F. Noel Perry, the group’s founder, said in a statement. “Venture capitalists and water entrepreneurs can’t make it rain, but investment plus ingenuity can result in conservation measures that will allow us to do more with less water.”

The number of patents issued in California in 2014 represents a rebound after a decline that began after 2011, when patents peaked at nearly 170 issued.

California-based water technology companies also received the largest amount of venture capital investment over the past five years of any state in the U.S., according to the report. In 2014, investors provided nearly $97 million to California water companies, or 38 percent of the U.S. total.

The vast majority of that venture capital money in 2014 went to firms in the San Diego region.

The state, however, is still a long way from taking the lead in water conservation. The report found that California ranks 41st nationally in per-capita water consumption, and 40th in terms of average water application rate for crop irrigation.

Hetch Hetchy Lawsuit to Be Heard on Local Turf

A lawsuit seeking to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park from the clutches of water development will be heard in rural Tuolumne County, where the development itself has had the greatest impact.

The decision marks a victory for Restore Hetch Hetchy, the environmental group that has sought for years to restore the valley, which rivals Yosemite itself in natural grandeur.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and O’Shaughnessy Dam are the primary source of water for the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, which provides water and power for more than 1.7 million people in San Francisco and other municipalities of the Bay Area.

Approval to construct the system in 1913 marked a major defeat for renowned conservationist John Muir, who tried to preserve the valley because it is a near equal to Yosemite Valley in natural wonders. It has been deeply flooded by stored water ever since.

Restore Hetch Hetchy argues that the valley can be restored without compromising San Francisco’s water supply, because the water held in Hetch Hetchy could be stored elsewhere.

The group filed a lawsuit in April against the city and county of San Francisco, claiming the reservoir violates water diversion mandates of the state constitution. The city had tried to get the court venue moved to San Francisco, but a superior court judge this week ruled in favor of the environmental group, concluding the case should be heard in Tuolumne County.

“Tuolumne County is where the damage has been done and it’s normal for court processes to take place where the damage takes place,” Spreck Rosekrans, Restore Hetch Hetchy’s executive director, told the Union-Democrat Newspaper. “We don’t think it’s right to move it to the place where the people are from, the people who did the damage.”

Top image: Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, at the microphone, unveils a $25,000 rainwater catchment system on Wednesday at a home in North Hollywood. The city hopes to encourage more homeowners to install such systems to ease the drought and reduce flood risk. (Mayor Eric Garcetti)

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