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Executive Summary for November 4th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in the West including the dent that recent rains have made in the drought. We also look at the water impacts of legal marijuana and a new water data challenge with the White House.

Published on Nov. 4, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Rain Makes a Small Dent

With California’s drought now in a sixth year, experts say it will take more than a few big rain storms to make up the difference. But recent wet weather has made small gains.

The bad news is that 88 percent of the state is at least abnormally dry, although just a few months ago the figure was 100 percent, so there’s a slight improvement there, according the the U.S. Drought Monitor. The northernmost part of the state is in the best shape and some parts are entirely drought-free. But more than 60 percent of the state, concentrated in central and southern California, is still mired in severe to exceptional drought.

“We’re still on our knees,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, told the Sacramento Bee. “To get out of a serious drought … it will take many years of above normal (precipitation),” he added.

White House Data Challenge

Spurred by the pressures of drought and climate change, the state of California is teaming up with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to foster innovation in the water world, according to an announcement last Friday.

“As we increasingly experience the impacts of climate change – including serious drought conditions in the West that scientists predict will only become more frequent and prolonged – we must revisit how we manage our nation’s water resources, and find new and innovative ways to build a sustainable water future,” wrote Christy Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, on the White House blog.

Goldfuss announced a Water Data Challenge, which asks for the creation of new apps or data visualization tools that can help make water data better understood by both the public and policymakers. Additional information about the challenge, what questions it can address and submission dates can be found here.

What Legal Pot Could Mean for Water

Next week California voters will decide on Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana use. A new story in L.A. Weekly explains the complicated implications for the environment.

Depending on where in California you are, the concerns vary. Research from Northern California shows that a concentration of growing operations in the Emerald Triangle are threatening fish populations. “There, in arguably the biggest pot production region in the world, they found that the habitats of two species of threatened fish, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, were being negatively affected by weed production,” L.A. Weekly reported.

Farther south in Desert Hot Springs in the Coachella Valley, there is also concern about a lack of infrastructure to supply water to all the growers that are hoping to set up shop.

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