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El Nino Welcomed to Drought-Stricken California

Despite the potential for flooding and mudslides, storms moving toward California were welcome news for a state suffering from a severe four-year drought. The first of the storms drenched the state on Tuesday, but California's water deficit is so deep after four years of drought that a "steady parade of storms" like these will be needed for years to come, said Mike Anderson, climatologist for the state's Department of Water Resources. NBCSanDiego 01/07/16


California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs $687 Million Drought Relief Bill

The bi-partisan legislation requires the state’s Department of Public Health to adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, and the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Public Health to develop other ways that allow the recycled water and storm water to increase the available water supply. Southern California Public Radio_3/1/14


Drought costing Hawaii's Big Isle residents who depend on rain

About one out of three homes on the Big Island is on rainwater catchment, and during times of widespread drought, residents are feeling the strain. Friday in Puna, water haulers have been busy as ever the last few weeks, delivering 4,000-gallon loads at $130 a haul to customers throughout the district. Residents who don't use haulers, fill up their own portable tanks in the back of their cars and trucks. Hawaii Tribune-Herald/Honolulu Advertiser_ 2/13/10

Despite rain, California still fighting over water

California has been deluged with rain and snow this winter, but its epic tug-of-war over water rages on, this time in the form of a plan by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to divert more water to the state's farmers. Feinstein has infuriated environmental activists, fishing groups and even fellow California Democrats by drafting federal legislation that would ease Endangered Species Act restrictions to allow more water to be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for growers in the state's Central Valley. California is the No. 1 farm state in the United States and its Central Valley is one of the country's most important agricultural regions. California farmers produce more than half the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. The senator has not released details of her proposed measure, which may be attached as an amendment to a federal jobs bill. But she said it would grant farmers in the state's agricultural heartland up to 40 percent of their federal water allocation for two years. Cutbacks were forced by water shortages stemming from a three-year statewide drought and delta pumping restrictions imposed to protect imperiled salmon and smelt populations. Reuters_ 2/12/10

Federal judge does an about-face and upholds California water limits

A topsy-turvy week in a federal courtroom in Fresno, Calif., has led to the imposition of water flow restrictions to aid endangered delta smelt in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. Judge Oliver Wanger of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled against irrigators and farmers yesterday in their request for a restraining order to open water pumps on the south end of the delta to maximum capacity. Dead smelt have been salvaged this week at the pumps, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to order the flow restrictions to go into effect this morning under a standing federal biological opinion. The restraining order would have blocked those limits from taking effect for 14 days. New York Times_ 2/11/10

After three dry years, Northern California's Lake Sonoma drinking water supply hits 100 percent full

Lake Sonoma has recovered from three years of below-average rainfall, filling up its water supply pool and hitting the flood stage Tuesday for the first time in five years. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Lake Sonoma had 246,337 acre-feet of water. At the beginning of the year, before a series of storms hit the North Coast, it held 182,090 acre-feet. It is the first time that the water was in the flood pool since New Years Day in 2005, when storms caused flooding along the Russian River. The lake is the primary source of water for 600,000 residents from Windsor to San Rafael. Press Democrat_ 1/26/10

California: Running Dry

A three-year drought in California is bringing a decades-long fight over water to a head, forcing tough choices. Water is in short supply. You don't have to go to Africa or the Middle East to see how much the planet is running dry. Just go to California, where, after three years of drought, dozens of towns and cities have imposed mandatory water rationing and a half million acres in the country's agricultural breadbasket are lying fallow. 60 Minutes/CBS story and video_ 12/27/09

Conservation update: Water demand in Los Angeles reaches a 32-year low
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported Monday that water demand reached a 32-year low for the month of June, dropping 11% compared with the same period in 2008. Though experts said June was on average 4 degrees cooler than normal, Jim McDaniel, the senior assistant general manager of DWP's water system, attributed the low demand to new water restrictions. The restrictions limit the use of sprinklers to 15 minutes a day on Mondays and Thursdays. No watering is allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Los Angeles Times_ 7/27/09

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar assigns two top aides to help solve water problems in California's San Joaquin Valley

At a hastily organized summit in Fresno on the San Joaquin Valley's water crisis, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Sunday he has assigned two of his top lieutenants to work with state officials to find solutions. But after two hours of empathy from federal officials, outrage from local congressmen and pleas from struggling Valley residents, it was far from clear whether any level of government has a solution that satisfies everyone. Salazar's offer to help included assigning Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor to work with state officials on short- and long-term water supply plans. Fresno Bee_ 6/28/09

California water crisis draws U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the Central Valley

Under increasing political pressure to address California's water crisis, the Obama administration said Wednesday it will dispatch Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to a hastily organized town hall meeting Sunday in Fresno. It will be Salazar's first official on-the-ground visit to the region. On Wednesday, meanwhile, state agriculture officials said that a combination of drought and federal environmental regulations have the potential to turn a short-term water crisis into a long-term agricultural and economic disaster. Fresno Bee_ 6/24/09

Governor visits drought zone and asks President Barack Obama to declare Fresno County, California, a disaster area
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday asked for federal disaster money for Fresno County and also promised to deliver help from the state. The governor's visit focused on the west side of Fresno County, where communities are suffering as the Westlands Water District receives 10% of its federal water allotment this year. The cutbacks stem from the three-year drought and are exacerbated by federal protections for the threatened delta smelt. Mendota's unemployment rate is 41%. Requests for a presidential disaster declaration are rarer for droughts than for other natural disasters. In 2007, the governor of Georgia requested a declaration because of a prolonged drought, but President George W. Bush declined to issue one. Fresno Bee_ 6/20/09

Orange County, California cities begin passing new water rules as 'severe drought' continues

Severe drought and shrinking water supplies are pushing Orange County cities and water districts to craft new conservation rules, with at least 10 approving new measures so far. But the state’s broken budget is stalling funding for some water-saving projects. And in some Orange County cities, reluctant politicians also are questioning the need for tougher laws that would penalize residents for excessive use of water, with early attempts to pass new restrictions going down to defeat. Most of the new rules come in response to a decision April 14 by the region’s water wholesaler, the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles, to reduce supplies to downstream agencies by 10 percent. The figure grows to about 20 percent when other recent cuts are added; the cut takes effect July 1. Persistent dry weather — once again classified this week as “severe drought” – prompted many agencies to plan ahead. Orange County Register_ 6/5/09

Record rainfall in May eases South Florida drought

In a swift and soggy reversal, South Florida's weather has gone from historically dry to historically wet in the space of a month. It was the rainiest May on record for the South Florida Water Management District, which recorded just over nines inches overall in the 16 counties it oversees, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe. That's more than double the average, replenishing lakes and ground-water supplies that had been drained dangerously low by one of the driest dry seasons ever. South Florida gets about 70 percent of its annual rainfall, normally 35 to 45 inches, during the May-October rainy season. Miami Herald_ 6/1/09

Los Angeles imposes summer water restrictions

With door-hangers, mail inserts and advertising serving as warnings, Los Angeles imposed tougher restrictions - including higher rates for water-wasters - as it seeks a 15 percent reduction in summer water use. California is in the third year of a drought that has reduced the amount of water available to residents. Residents who fail to achieve the 15 percent reduction in their allotment can expect to see their bimonthly bills to increase from $83.52 to $92.35. If they do reduce consumption by 15 percent, the bills are expected to drop to $71.59. Also under the new phase, residents can have water sprinklers operating only on Mondays and Thursdays. The city has a drought buster team that goes out to cite people who violate the measure. Daily News_ 6/1/09

May, 2009

Ogden, Utah city council adopts alert system for water shortages

A color-coded alert level for water conditions, adopted after two years of research, will be available on the City Council Web site, If notifications are needed, messages may be sent home with students, posted in public places or delivered by local media in the form of public service announcements. The four-stage alerts range from green for normal conditions to red for an extreme shortage. Ogden's water department will monitor water availability and make recommendations based on the Surface Water Supply Index, which is measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The SWSI measures snowpack, stream flow, precipitation and reservoir storage. Deseret News_ 5/1/09

California water wars heat up; GOP congressmen say there's no real shortage

As the politics of water grow more intense on Capitol Hill, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock is skeptical that there's really a shortage in California, even though the governor has declared a drought emergency. "Don't forget we have the most water-rich region in the state," said McClintock, a newcomer on the House Natural Resources Committee, who represents California's 4th Congressional District. "And yet our communities are in … drought alerts, not because of a shortage of water, but because of water that the environmental regulations allow us to use." It is becoming a common refrain for some Republicans in Washington: California's drought is human-made and could be resolved easily if government focused more on people, less on smelt. On Friday, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia went so far as to call for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's resignation. Sacramento Bee_ 4/24/09

Southern California's major water wholesaler to cut region's supplies by 10%

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has warned for months that the state's drought and environmentally driven cutbacks in water shipments from Northern California would leave demand higher than the supply. The cuts are the agency's first since the early 1990s drought. The Metropolitan Water District imports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and the Colorado River and sells it to local water districts. In anticipation of the cuts, Los Angeles is poised to adopt conservation rates aimed at getting residents to reduce their water use by 15%. Los Angeles Times_ 4/15/09

Worsening drought sparks water fights over Florida's Lake Okeechobee

The dispute over a few inches of water from the massive lake may only be the first of many to come -- unless the rainy season arrives on schedule and wetter than normal. On one side: Lee County, backed by environmentalists and Southwest Florida fishing and tourism interests, clamoring for more lake water to protect the Caloosahatchee River and one of the richest estuaries in the state. On the other side: Farmers who tap the lake for irrigation, and Southeastern cities that rely on it as a backup -- both watching the fast-dropping lake level with growing unease. In the middle of the debate: Two agencies that oversee the lake, the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With the lake dropping below 12 feet, both had discussed cutting off the Caloosahatchee to stockpile water should an exceptionally dry winter morph into another full-blown drought. Miami Herald_ 4/12/09

Plan to ration water in drought-stricken Los Angeles suffers surprise setback

Despite dire warnings of water shortages due to prolonged drought, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday rejected a plan to ration water in the nation's second-largest city for the first time in 18 years. The unanimous 15-0 vote against the plan marked a surprise setback for Los Angeles water managers, who like their peers in cities throughout California were directed to cut water use 20 percent this year under a drought emergency proclaimed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. But David Nahai, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation's biggest municipal utility, insisted that the proposal was not dead. Nahai said he hoped to gain council support for the measure after taking more time to explain the measure to the public. A spokesman for the mayor, Matt Szabo, said the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies 70 percent of the city's water, would impose rationing on Los Angeles if the city fails to take action itself. Reuters_ 4/9/09

Drought causes Florida aquifers to continue to fall

According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s March 6 Aquifer Resource Weekly Update, the central aquifer, which is a water source for the Tampa Bay region, is down to a negative 1.69 feet. Last week, the aquifer was at negative 1.65 feet. The normal range is between 0 and 6 feet. In southwest Florida, more than 80 percent of the water supply comes from aquifers. Rainfall continues below normal. For the past three years, rainfall has been below the historic average of just over 52.5 inches. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for March through May calls for conditions in the area to persist or intensify. Tampa Bay_ 3/8/09

Northern California's Santa Clara County to ration water

The Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors voted Tuesday to impose mandatory water rationing measures on the county's 1.7 million residents this spring. Board members will determine the specifics of the restrictions at its March 24 meeting. At that time, the district will have more information, including updated rainfall measurements and water allocations from the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Keith Whitman, deputy operating officer of the district, said that if February and March see average rainfall levels, the restrictions could be unnecessary. Whitman said restrictions will likely call for water use reductions between 10 and 20 percent, depending on precipitation. The valley has seen three excessively dry years in a row, causing a shortage in the county's supply of surface water. KTVU_ 2/10/09

Drought prompts Los Angeles mayor to restrict water use and punish violators

Calling the ongoing three-year drought a crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today called for severe water-use restrictions and a tiered rate system that would reward customers who conserve and punish those who don’t with higher bills. Lawn watering would be restricted to two days a week, , and could be cut to one day a week by summer if the drought continues, Villaraigosa said. The mayor made his announcement on a rainy winter day, but L.A.'s current wet weather is not expected to ease the drought. Restrictions could be imposed as early as March but would have to be approved by the City Council and commissioners at the city's Department of Water and Power. The increased conservation measures are proposed because the Metropolitan Water District, a major wholesale water supplier to Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, has warned that the worsening drought may force it to cut water deliveries by 15% to 25%. Los Angeles Times_ 2/9/09

San Diego to hold water rationing workshops

The city will hold the first of three public workshops Monday to discuss potential water rationing in San Diego due to the ongoing drought and projected cuts to water deliveries. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies most of San Diego's water, may soon slash deliveries to the region by as much as 20 percent, according to the mayor's office. Mayor Jerry Sanders has warned that if the cuts run as deep as the city anticipates, San Diego would begin implementing a water allocation strategy for customers as early as July 1. San Diegans have only cut back on their water use by about 5 percent since Sanders first raised the alarm by declaring a "Stage 1" water shortage emergency nearly a year ago. 10news.com_ 2/9/09

January, 2009

Mayor: Water rationing may begin in San Diego, California in early summer

Water could be rationed in San Diego as early as this summer due to the ongoing drought and a projected cut to deliveries to the region, Mayor Jerry Sanders warned Tuesday. Sixty percent of the water used by single-family residences in San Diego is for landscaping, he said. The need to cut back on water use in the city is necessitated by ongoing drought conditions and a judge's ruling that limits the amount of water that can be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in order to protect an endangered species of fish. 10News.com_ 1/27/09

Grim water outlook for California and Nevada

Experts offered a grim water outlook for Nevada and California on Friday, saying farmers can again expect to receive less water than normal this year because of a drought. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials, meeting with water users at a conference in Reno, said the snowpack water content is again averaging below normal so far this winter in both states. As of Jan. 22, the snowpack water content was 49 percent of average for the date in Northern California, 57 percent in Central California and 64 percent in Southern California, according to Ron Milligan, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley operations manager in Sacramento, Calif. Electronic sensor readings taken throughout the Sierra as of Jan. 1 showed the overall water content of the snowpack at 76 percent of normal, compared to 60 percent last year. AP/Nevada Appeal_ 1/24/09

St. Helena in California's wine country, imposes new water limits

The St. Helena City Council agreed 3-2 last week to impose mandatory water restrictions on residents in response to paltry precipitation and a bleak forecast for the rest of the rainy season. As of last week, Bell Canyon reservoir, the city’s primary water source, was at 40.6 percent of full capacity. At this time last year the reservoir was 61.6 percent full. St. Helena Star_ 1/19/09

San Diego, California, city council to vote on water restrictions for drought; One plan could halt new construction unless builders can offset water demand

Most of the rules won't begin immediately because it's not clear how much water the city or the region must save in 2009. Barring heavy mountain snowfall this winter, water agencies statewide are widely expected by spring to step up conservation with new rules and stronger enforcement amid a prolonged drought. The city's proposal includes year-round regulations against water waste, such as a ban on landscape irrigation runoff. It also establishes a system of progressively stricter mandates that includes outdoor watering schedules, a ban on the use of most ornamental fountains and restrictions on car washing. The biggest potential change for customers is a property-by-property water “budget” that would impose dramatically higher rates for those who go over their allotted limit. San Diego also is preparing to stop issuing water permits for most new development projects unless builders can offset their water demand through conservation or other measures. That provision would start only if the drought becomes more severe, but it already has sparked concerns about the lack of details. San Diego Union-Tribune_ 11/9/08

Eastern Sierra water supplies need a wet winter

Unless this fall produces an unusual spate of wet weather, Lake Tahoe should drop below its natural rim by early December. The Truckee River will then be cut off from its largest supply of water. It's the result of back-to-back lackluster winters that left a skimpy mountain snowpack, with runoff into Lake Tahoe at 30 percent of normal both years. "It's getting real hard to sugar-coat things," said Bill Hauck, water supply coordinator for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. "We will be entirely dependent on a good winter this year." The problem is apparent in the region's shrinking lakes and reservoirs, low rivers and dry streams and drying forests. Even with another dry winter, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority will continue to be able to provide water demanded by the 93,000 homes and businesses the utility serves, Hauk said. Reno Gazette-Journal_ 10/13/08

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declares a water supply emergency in Magoffin County

The Salvation Army has arranged with Anheuser Busch to deliver two semi truck loads of bottled water for more than 13,000 people who live in that county. Drought conditions in the area, combined with low water levels in the Licking River, have led to a serious water shortage in the county. A boil water advisory is in effect and people are being asked to conserve. LEX18_ 10/12/08

Water supply for Southern  California's San Gabriel Valley could hit all-time low

An underground aquifer that stores much of the region's water supply could reach an all-time low by year's end, officials said. The Main San Gabriel Basin, which spans 167 square miles beneath the San Gabriel Valley, is approaching its lowest water level in 75 years. "It is not the lowest we've ever been," said Carol Williams, executive director of the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster. "But if conditions continue, it is very possible we might hit a historic low by the end of year." As of Sept. 12, the water level was recorded at 203.5 feet above sea level. One year ago, it was measured at 213.3 feet above sea level. The lowest water level recorded since 1933 was in 2004, when it was 195.5 feet above sea level. Depleted water levels attributed to low rainfall, a decline in imported water and an increase in demand could lead to higher rates and rationing, officials said. Pasadena Star-News_ 9/21/08

Rain does little to quench North Carolina drought

When Tropical Storm Fay was flooding parts of Florida last week, people in Asheville, North Carolina, prayed that the soaking rains would move north and douse this drought-stricken mountain resort city. The rains finally arrived Monday, but even an all-day storm could not ease one of the most punishing droughts in the last 100 years -- some say the worst ever -- in this region. The rest of the southeastern United States has gradually recovered from last summer's record drought, but a small pocket in western North Carolina and parts of three other states remain locked in some of the driest conditions they've ever recorded. In Asheville earlier this month, the French Broad River, the major waterway here, reached its lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1895. Even with the rainstorm, the state's Drought Management Advisory Council considers the region mired in "extreme" drought, the second-most-severe of five drought categories. The 18-county area lies roughly between the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, with extreme drought conditions extending into corners of Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia. Los Angeles Times_ 8/31/08

Fay leaves behind lots of water for Lake Okeechobee
Tropical Storm Fay brought some good news to the state's parched Everglades and its liquid heart, Lake Okeechobee — lots and lots of water.  The lake, a backup drinking water source for 5 million people, rose more than 2 feet in a single week. That's about 288 billion gallons, equivalent to about 84 days worth of water used in South Florida for drinking, watering lawns and other purposes.  It was the first time since record-keeping started in 1931 that the lake saw such a dramatic rise, according to the South Florida Water Management District. AP_ 8/27/08

Los Angeles City Council boosts fines for violating outdoor water law

Under an ordinance unanimously approved without discussion today by the Los Angeles City Council, residents are prohibited from watering their lawns between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. -- before, the ban was in force between 10 a.m and 5 p.m. As before, watering is limited to 15 minutes a day. Residents are also prohibited from using a hose to wash off paved surfaces and must wash their cars with a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle. Residential DWP customers who violate the rules will be fined $100, which is double the old fine of $50 for a first-time offense. The fine for businesses that violate the rules quadrupled to $200 from $50. Repeat residential offenders can be fined up to $300 and commercial customers up to $600. The water restrictions and fines are part of the $1 billion, 20-year water conservation plan announced in May by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Department of Water and Power General Manager David Nahai. Daily News_ 8/8/08

California drought takes some big reservoirs to lowest levels in decades

State Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow told a congressional committee Monday that water levels in the state's second-largest storage reservoir will end the year with the lowest amount of water in more than 30 years. Farmers, climate change experts and regional politicians also testified at the hearing in Fresno of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power. Representatives from environmental and fishermen's organizations, as well as Native American tribes, were not called to testify. State officials are already preparing for another year of drought in 2009, prompted by low storage levels, court-ordered cutbacks, increasing demand for water and forecasts of another dry winter, Snow said, adding, next year "could be the worst drought in California history." AP/USA Today_ 7/22/08

Los Angeles County hopes to fend off drought with cloud-seeding program

Hoping to wring water from the skies, a parched Los Angeles County plans to launch an $800,000 cloud-seeding project in the San Gabriel Mountains this winter that officials believe will boost rainfall and raise the levels of local reservoirs. The project will rely on injecting clouds with silver iodide particles. With California gripped by dry weather and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring a statewide drought, cloud-seeding is attracting both fresh attention and skeptics. Los Angeles Times_ 6/16/08 (logon required)

Drought highlights link between water, growth; California and Arizona enforcing water laws

Drought and new environmental limits on water use have caught up with home builders in California, where cities have begun enforcing laws that link water and growth.  The New York Times reports that water authorities and other government agencies have begun to delay or halt new subdivisions under a long-ignored state law that requires a 20-year water supply before new homes can be built.

• In Riverside County, a judge blocked construction of 1,500 homes, concluding that the builders failed to show evidence of an adequate water supply.
• In San Luis Obispo County, on the coast north of Los Angeles, plans by Pismo Beach to annex land for a new development were rejected because the city lacked water supplies.
• In Kern County, a farming area north of LA, as many as three developers had to pack up and go home when they couldn't substantiate water availability.

California enacted a law in 2001 requiring developers they could provide 20 years of water for a new project, but cities and towns have rarely enforced the provision. With supplies tight, that's changing.  Arizona requires 100 years of assured water in its Active Management Areas of Maricopa, Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties, along with the Prescott area. In the rest of the state, the law lets developers ignore the requirement, except in Cochise County and the town of Patagonia, where elected officials adopted the AMA-style rules.  Arizona Republic_6/13/08  logon required

Calif. gov declares water emergency in farm area
Following his declaration last week of a drought in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed on Thursday a state of emergency in nine counties in the state's farm-rich Central Valley.  "Central Valley agriculture is a $20 billion a year industry. If we don't get them water immediately the results will be devastating," he added. "Food prices, which are already stretching many family budgets, will continue to climb and workers will lose their jobs -- everyone's livelihood will be impacted in some way."  The Department of Water Resources also is directed to transfer groundwater, tested for public safety, through the California Aqueduct to farmers and for the State Water Resources Control Board to review transfers as quickly as possible.  California has had two years of below-average rainfall and its water woes are being compounded by a federal court order to limit water pumping from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, the state's fresh-water hub, to protect a fish species.  Reuters_6/12/08

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declares drought in California, warns of rationing

Its reservoir levels receding and its grounds parched, California has fallen officially into drought, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday, warning that the state might be forced to ration water to cities and regions if conservation efforts did not improve. The drought declaration — the first for the state since 1991 — includes orders to transfer water from less dry areas to those that are dangerously dry. Mr. Schwarzenegger also said he would ask the federal government for aid to farmers and press water districts, cities and local water agencies to accelerate conservation. Drought conditions have hampered farming, increased water rates throughout California and created potentially dangerous conditions in areas prone to wildfires. The declaration comes after the driest California spring in 88 years, with runoff in river basins that feed most reservoirs at 41 percent of average levels. It stops short of a water emergency, which would probably include mandatory rationing. New York Times_ 6/5/08 (logon required)

Southern U.S. water providers raise rates despite conservation

After months of putting up with brown lawns and dirty cars to conserve water, many residents of the drought-stricken Southeast are now paying sharp rate increases from utilities scrambling to make up lost revenue. It's like a conservation penalty — cut back, then pay more. But utility operators say they have little choice. Drought-inspired rate hikes and surcharges are somewhat common in parched communities in the West, but it's a new concern for many utilities in the Southeast used to an abundant water supply. Georgia usually gets about 50 inches of rain a year, compared to about 13 in Arizona. Rainfall deficits, higher demand and a three-state fight over federal water resources combined to plunge Georgia into its worst drought in recorded history. Help — of sorts — is on the way. At a water efficiency conference in College Park, officials invited utility heads to submit proposals for some $40 million in state funding for more reservoirs. But the process could likely take decades. AP_ 5/26/08

Northern California's East Bay region begins water rationing

Water rationing went into effect Tuesday for residents of northern California's East Bay region after water managers unanimously passed a drought management program aimed at preserving the system's deteriorating water supply. Residents of single-family homes throughout much of Alameda and Contra Costa counties are required to immediately reduce water use by 19 percent; golf courses face 30 percent cuts; refineries and manufacturers must trim 5 percent. Tuesday's action by the East Bay Municipal Utility District set out reduction goals, prohibited water uses and declared a water-shortage emergency across the district's system, which serves 1.3 million residents between Oakland and Danville and Crockett and Castro Valley. The area is roughly the eastern section of San Francisco Bay. But questions swirl about the plan's enforcement, how the targets are calculated and how it will affect water rates - both for those who already conserve, and for those who use large amounts of water. Under the plan, those who don't comply face citations and the possibility of reduced water flow or disconnected service. In July, the board will vote on special drought pricing. Managers argued the measure was critical because two consecutive dry years and the driest spring on record are expected to leave the system's reservoirs with 415,000 acre-feet of water - about two thirds of the normal 600,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough to supply a household of four for one year. San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/14/08

Could Florida's drought be over by year's end?

Don't crank up the lawn sprinklers yet, but state water officials say they see signs that Florida's latest drought — which has been going on since 2006 — may finally be easing up. Florida's wet season typically begins in late May or early June and continues for about five months through Nov. 1, producing two-thirds of South Florida's annual rainfall. "The outlook is much more optimistic (for the rainy season) than it was this time last year," said Ben Nelson, state meteorologist for the Division of Emergency Management. "If we have a typical wet season, we should be out of the drought by the end of the year." For the past 22 months, Florida's skies have been mostly dry. So during 2006 and 2007, when the Tampa Bay region should have received 53 inches of rain a year, only 43 inches fell in 2006 and 41 inches in 2007. Meanwhile South Florida's counties saw the driest consecutive years in the region since recordkeeping began in 1932. Statewide, the "rainfall deficit" is the largest since the mid 1950s, according to the state Department of Emergency Management. St. Petersburg Times_ 5/12/08

Raleigh, North Carolina will east water restrictions

Mayor Charles Meeker says the city will return to Stage 1 water restrictions now that heavy rains have filled Falls Lake for the first time in many months. Meeker said this evening that city officials will announce the repeal of the city's most severe water restrictions tomorrow morning, ending conservation measures that were unpopular with landscapers and nursery owners as well as many gardeners and homeowners. But the mayor warned that water conservation in the city will become a year-round effort, with Stage 1 restrictions remaining in place until city officials formulate permanent rules, which will like involve tiered water rates, limited outdoor watering and low-flow devices on shower heads and other appliances. News-Observer_ 4/6/08

Florida's Lake Okeechobee not losing water

Though still low for where it should be, Lake Okeechobee isn't losing water, officials say — and that's no small victory. The lake, currently at 10.32 feet above sea level, has been fluctuating only slightly, "holding its own," as Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, puts it. "We're on a different track than we were this time last year," he said. The lake dropped to 8.82 feet above sea level, a record low, on July 2. Palm Beach Post_ 4/6/08

Georgia moves from exceptional to extreme drought

For the first time since last July, the state has emerged from the most severe condition given by the U.S. Drought Monitor. "If this were a hospital patient, this would be like going from grave to critical," said state climatologist David Stooksbury. Back-to-back weeks of 1 to 3 inches of rain across northern Georgia, the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and the western Carolinas helped improve the drought situation. The only Southeastern area remaining in the D4, or exceptional drought, condition is a small area of Northeast Alabama and South Central Tennessee. Gainesville Times_ 3/26/08

South Florida's drought expected to ease after summer: NOAA

South Florida's drought should ease later this year, federal meteorologists said today. But scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it may take until the summer rainy season for Lake Okeechobee to begin to recover from its near-record low water levels. "It will be drier than usual until you get into that thunderstorm season," said Douglas LeComte, a meteorologist at the federal Climate Prediction Center, during a telephone news conference with reporters. "We do think conditions will probably get worse before they get better," he said. On the other hand, the NOAA scientists said recent heavy rains already have brought some easing of the severe drought that has been gripping Florida, Georgia, Alabama and other parts of the U.S. Southeast. Palm Beach Post_ 3/20/08

Winter rains and snow won't ease U.S. drought much

Above average rainfall in recent months has provided some relief to the parched Southeast, and a hefty snowpack will help increase stream flows across the West this spring and summer. But too much of the country has been too dry for too long for one wet winter to repair the damage. Reservoirs and groundwater supplies remain dangerously depleted. A long-term warming trend in the North Atlantic -- aggravated by, though not necessarily caused by, global warming -- has been the chief culprit in the dry conditions of recent years and is expected to continue. As a result, drought conditions will persist across much of the U.S. in 2008. Kiplinger_ 3/7/08

Corps of Engineers to cut water released from North Carolina lake

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker announced Monday that the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to cut the amount of water it releases from Falls Lake by nearly half. The move would save the city of Raleigh about 17 million gallons of water a day. The mayor also said he will ask city council to start voluntary inspections to find out if businesses are complying with the request to install low-flow devices on all sinks and shower heads. The mayor says Raleigh's water use has dropped by 6 percent since stage 2 restrictions were put in place. News14_ 3/3/08

February, 2008

Snowpack not satisfying California water officials

The Sierra snowpack continues to exceed normal levels, which is good news for skiers and the state's water users, but water officials say it's not enough to wipe out the state's water-supply deficit. A sampling of four Sierra monitoring stations Wednesday and Thursday showed snow levels ranging between 110 and 138 percent of normal for this time of year, compared with a 74 to 85 percent range at the same time last year, the state Department of Water Resources reported. Estimated water content of the snowpack is at about 120 percent of normal, compared with 68 percent last year, said Elissa Lynn, a department meteorologist. But even with the extra snow, the state's reservoirs are not expected to fill up this year because of the shortages last year, when the water content of the peak snowpack on April 1 was only 40 percent, Lynn said. The state's major reservoirs currently are about half full on average, she said. In related news, state water officials announced Thursday they will need to further reduce water pumped from the delta starting immediately to comply with a federal court order limiting water exports to Southern California, the Bay Area and Central Valley. Laura King Moon, spokeswoman for the nonprofit State Water Contractors, which represents 27 public agencies that purchase the water, said the agencies have sufficient water in storage to absorb the restrictions this year but could not easily do so "for more than a couple of years." San Francisco Chronicle_ 2/29/08

Southern California drought plan likely to pass despite strong objections it hurts low-income urban residents

A controversial Southern California drought plan that has divided area cities is expected to win approval today from the Metropolitan Water District board, with strong backing from Los Angeles and San Diego. The allocation plan, a guide for divvying up water among 26 cities and districts during a severe shortage, won unanimous approval Monday from a key MWD panel. The full board will take up the plan at noon today, although recent rains may forestall its use this year. An array of smaller southeastern Los Angeles County cities lambasted the plan, saying that it unfairly gives more water to large cities and growing inland communities while leaving lower-income urban residents with less water and expensive penalties for exceeding allotments. Some critics, including Long Beach, have hinted that they may challenge the plan in court.  Los Angeles Times_ 2/12/08 (logon required)

Above-average Sierra snowpack encourages California water officials
What a difference a year makes.  After last year's bone-dry winter in which the Sierra had just 40 percent of its average annual snowpack - and local water agencies encouraged residents to start conserving - the newest tallies show the snowpack ranges from 115 percent to 123 percent of average for this time of year, depending upon the location. It's still too early to say whether the season will end up wet or dry, but state water officials are cautiously optimistic the state is not in a drought.  "It's a complete turnaround," said Don  Strickland, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. "Things are looking a lot better."  Indeed, a light snow was falling as workers measured the water content of the snowpack Thursday morning. And meteorologists say even more storms are on the way. Workers have had a hard time taking all the state's planned snow measurements because some regions have so much fresh powder - the snow's water content level is three times what it was this time last year - that snowmobiles aren't able to reach those points, said Elissa Lynn, senior meteorologist for the Department of Water Resources.  "It's been a huge, productive, good month," she said.  But the state's reservoirs still  have some catching up to do.  While the 10 reservoirs in Santa Clara County are now at an average of 60.5 percent of capacity, many of the state's largest reservoirs are languishing at just 30 to 40 percent of capacity - and are actually below where they were last January.  The snowpack is considered a crucial part of the state's water picture because as the snow starts to melt in the spring, much of the runoff drains into Northern California reservoirs, bolstering supplies as the state heads into the dry summer months.  Reservoirs might be lower than water officials would like, but they see the above-average snowpack figures as a "shot in the arm" to the state's water supply.  San Jose Mercury News_1/31/08


Water-rich Florida utility wants drought limits lifted

After more than a year of sparse rainfall left Lake Okeechobee at or near record lows, regional water managers on Jan. 15 moved to protect the Everglades and drinking water supplies by imposing a once-a-week watering restriction from Monroe to St. Lucie counties. But Seacoast wellfields in northern Palm Beach County, though barely 40 miles east of Lake O, are at higher levels than normal, says Rim Bishop Seacoast's executive director. They're part of a separate underground system. For that reason, Seacoast wants crisis-level restrictions lifted for the 37,000 households and 1,600 commercial customers it serves. The extra money it would get from selling water to big users would keep its overall rates low, benefiting people who use less, such as condo residents on fixed incomes, Bishop says. Otherwise, he says, rates are poised to rise as the utility loses hundreds of thousands of dollars each month because of the use restrictions. But Bishop, like some counterparts to the northeast, has come up against a big-picture, regional water district not in the mood for exceptions to its drive to save water and to root conservation in the minds of all South Florida residents. That Seacoast wellfields aren't linked to the lake is precisely the point, said Chip Merriam, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. "They have finite resources." Palm Beach Post_ 1/27/08

Dought could force nuke-plant shutdowns

Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.  Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.  Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.  "Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. "You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants." He added: "This is becoming a crisis."  An Associated Press analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines. 

Associated Press_1/23/08

No sign of Florida drought easing soon; La Nina-driven dry period rivals state's worst

Brought to life by two of the driest years in more than a century, Florida's drought now rivals the worst in state history, threatening water supplies, seafood production, boater navigation and forests. It could get a lot worse. Don't look for much rain soon if the global-climate bully called La Nina keeps flexing its muscle as predicted. Already, rainfall shortages have left the Panhandle's Apalachicola River and Southwest Florida's Peace River at critically low levels. Massive Lake Okeechobee in South Florida also is reeling, as are Central Florida's large lakes. In July, Lake Okeechobee hit its lowest level ever at less than 9 feet above sea level. For South Florida's biggest cities, Okeechobee's decline could lead to disaster. The metropolitan area depends on the lake for a backup supply of water. Baltimore Sun/Orlando Sentinel_ 1/6/08

In midst of drought, bullet holes drain North Carolina town's water supply

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water is draining from a water tower in Maiden because of recently discovered bullet holes. The tower holds 750,000 gallons of water for Maiden, which is just south of Hickory. Officials must wait for most of the water to drain because repairs must be done inside the holding tank. Catawba County Sheriff's deputy Major Coy Reid said the tower appears to have been shot three times with a high-powered rifle. He said authorities believe the shooting took place early Monday morning. Nearby residents heard gun shots but no one called authorities, so the damage wasn't discovered until hours later. Fixing the damage will likely cost between $15,000 and $20,000.  AP/Fox News_ 1/1/08

December, 2007

Georgia climatologist warns state could face worse drought next year

Georgia's state climatologist warned Friday that without more rain over the next three months, the state could face a drought next year even worse than this year's record conditions. David Stooksbury said the severe drought gripping north Georgia and parts of the Southeast could expand through the rest of the state and lead to "catastrophic" conditions in the summer. And although recent rains have helped recharge dwindling reservoirs, Stooksbury said forecasts show a dry winter ahead and little chance of the drought breaking. More than one-third of the Southeast - including Gainesville and surrounding areas - is covered by an "exceptional" drought, the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is smack in the middle of an affected region that also includes most of Tennessee, Alabama, North and South Carolina, as well as parts of Kentucky and Virginia. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 12/22/07

North Carolina leaders meet to discuss drought

Gov. Mike Easley urged local governments Thursday to charge hefty prices to residents who use more water than necessary as state leaders look at ways to curtail a worsening drought. The plan would keep prices low for necessary water use but "significantly" raise the price of water on customers who use excessive amounts, Easley said. He wants the plan to remain permanent for long-term conservation. "I hope statewide that we can get all of our municipalities to adopt that conservation pricing strategy," Easley said during a meeting of the Drought Management Advisory Council, a panel of local and state officials. "I hope people will understand it and know that they have to conserve. The water bill will certainly be one more reminder." Water usage dropped about 30 percent between August and the end of October after Easley issued a call to cut water usage by 50 percent. But water use has crept back up, Easley said. In some communities, the Democratic governor suggested those conservation numbers should now be climbing to 40 percent. The U.S. Drought Monitor released a report Thursday that said about two-thirds of the state is under exceptional drought conditions, the most intense category. The remainder of the state _ small sections along the Virginia border and much of the coast _ are classified in extreme or severe drought. Weather forecasters issued a bleak outlook for the next six months, noting that the La Nina climate pattern is driving wet weather to the north and away from the drought-parched Southeast. They expect that to continue through the spring, bringing lower-than-normal precipitation at a time when the state needs above-average rainfall. AP/Houston Chronicle_ 12/20/07

North Carolina takes 1st step to revise water rules

An overhaul of North Carolina's outdated water policies will begin with a meeting Thursday in parched Charlotte. State legislators say it's time to revisit a loosely regulated system that doesn't reveal how much water is withdrawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers, or how much is available. Legislation passed in August, at the zenith of this year's drought, tells the commission to make a comprehensive study of water issues. Other Southeastern states, wilting under a second severe drought in five years, are doing the same. South Carolina's legislature, which convenes next month, is expected to take up permits for large water users. The state is also negotiating with Georgia over rights to the Savannah River, which forms their border, and has sued North Carolina over use of the Catawba River. The N.C. study will address regulating water withdrawals, transfers from one river basin to another and avoiding conflicts over interstate waters such as the current one between the Carolinas over the Catawba. The commission is to report to legislators in 2009. Charlotte Observer_ 12/19/07

Los Angeles mayor's call for voluntary water conservation doesn't produce hoped-for savings

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's call six months ago for voluntary water conservation in a record dry year has failed to persuade Los Angeles residents and businesses to rein in water use substantially, city records show. Despite the mayor's June 6 plea for a 10% reduction, water use in the city remained largely flat through October, compared with the same period last year, according to records from the city Department of Water and Power. Now some environmentalists want the mayor to go further and endorse mandatory restrictions, such as those that have reaped significant water savings this fall in Long Beach. Area environmental leaders who met privately with Villaraigosa on Tuesday said they asked him to declare a state of drought and impose restrictions -- and that he said he would if science supported it. The mayor's office confirmed last week that the conversation occurred but did not have details of what kind of scientific evidence the mayor had in mind. City water officials said Friday that they planned to wait several more months to see if water supplies improve before resorting to harsher measures. Water use since June may be down as much as 3% from a year ago once November reports are counted, but final statistics were not available as of late Friday afternoon, said DWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo. Cities throughout Southern California are urging conservation this year amid gloomy reports of a long-running drought in the Colorado River Basin and a near-record-low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. A judge's August ruling to protect endangered smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could further curtail water deliveries from Northern California. Los Angeles Times_ 12/10/07 (logon required)

Georgia's newest lake is ready for water
As Georgia's largest lakes dry up, the state's newest body of water is nearly ready to fill. But a full lake is at least two years away.  Construction of Hickory Log Creek Dam in Canton wraps up in about 10 days, allowing managers to close the gates to capture the flow. Should there be any to catch.  The ongoing drought — the harshest on record — has reduced Hickory Log Creek to a trickle. Last week, the flow of the Etowah River tributary was about 2 cubic feet, about 15 gallons, a second. Normal flow is 10 cubic feet a second.  That's one reason it will take as long to fill the reservoir as it did to build the 180-foot high dam.  The reservoir will hold about 5 billion gallons.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_12/5/07

Water runs dry in Orme, a rural Tennessee town near the border of Alabama and Georgia

The worst drought to hit the U.S. Southeast in decades has forced Orme to get by on just a few hours of water a day because its spring has run dry. Rural Orme with its population of just 140 people has become a symbol of the drought because few other places appear to have been so directly hit. Each evening, residents wait for Mayor Tony Reames to make the short drive from his home where he keeps chickens up to a water tower on a wooded hill above the town to open a valve. When the water is flowing families can fill buckets and water jars, do laundry, take showers and wash dishes before the faucets run dry and they wait for the next evening. Orme received a $377,590 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture plus a further grant of $229,000 and is building a water pipe from Bridgeport, Alabama, to the town's water tower, Reames said. In the past, a creek and a waterfall fed the town but the creek dried up years ago and the waterfall slowed to a trickle in August, exposing a fissure in the rock that leads down to a big network of caves, residents said. Reuters_ 11/20/07

Florida officials plan to tighten water restrictions

South Florida Water Management District plans to recommend to its governing board that the district enter into a Phase III water restriction following the Dec. 13 board meeting.  A Phase III water restriction means residential watering is limited to four hours a day, one day a week, said Clarence Tears, director of Big Cypress Basin, the local arm of the water management district.  Naples News_11/15/07

Environmentalists: Officials skimped on water conservation measures
Environmentalists say state and local officials haven't done enough to implement water conservation measures, exacerbating the impact of this year's historic drought.  In fact, members of the Georgia Water Coalition said Wednesday that a few water conservation measures could save Metro Atlanta nearly 85 million gallons a day.  The activists' message at the press conference stood in contrast to Gov. Sonny Perdue's comments only two days earlier. Perdue told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that the 10-percent cutback in water withdrawals he mandated last week was largely symbolic and would have a negligible impact on the area's water supply.  Perdue has argued that rapid development in North Georgia has nothing to do with the area's water problems, and he has been backed up in that assessment by the leaders of the state Senate and House.  The coalition of 150 organizations released a report card saying the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has failed to implement sufficient water conservation measures.  They say it has hasn't taken the lead on getting 1 million older homes in metro Atlanta retrofitted with plumbing fixtures that use less water, that not enough has been done to fix leaky pipes and that far too many area homes are currently on septic tanks instead of sewer systems.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_10/31/07

Drought prompts Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to urge conservation

Localities should update water conservation and drought contingency ordinances and prepare to implement them, Kaine said Tuesday. Also, he said, citizens and businesses should conserve water regardless of whether local governments have asked them to do so. If predictions of a dry winter materialize, the state will be in a signifiant drought when the growing season begins in the spring, he said. AP/WVEC_ 10/30/07

Gov. Sonny Perdue calls for 10 percent water reductions through north Georgia

Perdue ordered the 10 percent water usage cut Tuesday to conserve more of the state's dwindling water supply in the midst of an epic drought gripping the Southeast. Perdue calls the move a "first step" to reducing water usage during the drought, and encouraged Georgia residents to treat drying lawns and dirty cars as a "badge of honor." The cuts apply to the 61 north Georgia counties covered by a September order that banned virtually all outdoor watering. Almost one-third of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought _ the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is smack in the middle of the affected region, which includes most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/23/07

North Carolina residents asked to cut water use in half

N.C. Gov. Mike Easley is calling on North Carolinians to reduce their water consumption by 50 percent between now and Halloween in a effort to assess the state's water-saving capabilities. Easley has asked the state's public water utilities to report on the amount of water used. The results will be used to gauge the success of water-saving measures and provide important information if the drought continues and rationing is needed. According to the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council, as of late last week 71 N.C. counties were experiencing exceptional drought. The other 29 are in a state of severe and extreme drought. Charlotte Business Journal_ 10/23/07

The future is drying up

Last May, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government’s pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. “There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,” Chu said, “and that’s in the best scenario." In the Southwest this past summer, the outlook was equally sobering. A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River — which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains — has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations. Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. As one prominent Western water official described the possible future to me, if some of the Southwest’s largest reservoirs empty out, the region would experience an apocalypse, “an Armageddon." New York Times Magazine_ 10/21/07 (logon required)

Southeast drought hits crisis point
The Southeast's worst drought in more than a century is forcing parched states and communities into crisis measures to conserve water and fight for access to more. A region accustomed to plentiful rain from tropical storms and hurricanes is experiencing its second straight year of less rain in the summer and fall. Through September, it is the region's driest year in 113 years of record-keeping. In five of the six worst-hit states, rain totals this year are close to a foot below normal. It is the driest year on record for North Carolina and Tennessee, second-driest in Alabama and third-driest in Kentucky. USA Today_ 10/21/07

Georgia officials have no backup plan for worst drought scenario

With the South in the grip of an epic drought and its largest city holding less than a 90-day supply of water, officials are scrambling to deal with the worst-case scenario: What if Atlanta's faucets really do go dry? So far, no real backup plan exists. And there are no quick fixes among suggested solutions, which include piping water in from rivers in neighboring states, building more regional reservoirs, setting up a statewide recycling system or even desalinating water from the Atlantic Ocean. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue seems to be pinning his hopes on a two-pronged approach: urging water conservation and reducing water flowing out of federally controlled lakes. Perdue's office on Friday asked a Florida federal judge to force the Army Corps of Engineers to curb the amount of water draining from Georgia reservoirs into Alabama and Florida. And Georgia's environmental protection director is drafting proposals for more water restrictions. But that may not be enough to stave off the water crisis. More than a quarter of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought _ the National Weather Service's worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is smack in the middle of the affected region, which extends like a dark cloud over most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/19/07

Water snitches become first line of enforcement
In Douglas County, Ga. this week 15 people have been caught in the middle of the night breaking a watering ban and had their water turned off on the spot and only turned back on after they paid a $25 fine.  The water crisis in metro Atlanta — shrinking supplies, growing paranoia — has suddenly come to street justice. And it likely will get uglier before it gets better. Or wetter.  Water authorities around the metro area have relied on neighbors to turn on neighbors for turning on water.  It turns out there's plenty of homeowners willing to be sprinkler snitchers.  "I'm not aware of any other county being as proactive as we are, but I expect they will be pretty soon," says Mike Patton, spokesman for the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority which began street patrols this week to catch people wet-handed.  Other metro counties — Gwinnett and Cobb — are patrolling streets looking for water scofflaws. Gwinnett County has issued about 200 warnings and 20 citations since the statewide outdoor watering ban took effect on Sept. 28. The county has also relied on neighbors telling on neighbors.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_10/18/07

Southeast U.S. facing "ongoing water crisis"

If there's a Ground Zero for the epic drought that's tightening its grip on the South, it's once-mighty Lake Lanier, the Atlanta water source that's now a relative puddle surrounded by acres of dusty red clay. Little rain is in the forecast, and without it climatologists say the water source for more than 3 million people could run dry in just 90 days. "We're way beyond limiting outdoor water use. We're talking about indoor water use," said Jeff Knight, an environmental engineer for the college town of Athens, 60 miles northeast of Atlanta, which is preparing a last-ditch rationing program as its reservoir also dries up. About 26 percent of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought — the National Weather Service's worst drought category. The affected area extends like a dark cloud over most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/Seattle Times_ 10/16/07

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley urges more water conservation--turn off the faucett when you brush your teeth

Easley asked communities and individuals today to step up water conservation by taking steps ranging from ceasing all outdoor watering to turning off the faucet when brushing teeth. Easley said he did not want to invoke his emergency powers to require water rationing. Instead, he said, local public officials should respond to the problem themselves to avoid running out of water. He warned that without greater conservation, some industries could be forced to close, throwing people out of work. Siler City in Chatham County, for instance, faces the possible closure of two industries, which would mean the loss of 1,700 jobs, Easley said. The town has 80 days worth of water remaining, and officials there have asked people to cut water use by at least 50 percent. Of the state's 100 counties, 86 are in the two most intensive categories of drought, "exceptional" and "extreme," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The National Weather Service foresees a drier than normal winter, Easley said. Charlotte Observer_ 10/15/07

After the drought: Colorado cities drastically reduce water use

Five years after an epic drought gripped Colorado, its largest cities have dramatically reduced water use, aided by multimillion dollar conservation campaigns and soaring water rates. Colorado Springs gets the "A" for effort, slashing home water use the most — 23 percent — since 2001, according to a survey by the Rocky Mountain News. Denver and Fort Collins have also made strides, dropping residential use by 18 percent. The survey examined water use and prices in 10 cities, five on the Front Range and five on the Western Slope. Most of the cities have achieved savings, particularly in recent years, using voluntary rather than mandatory water restrictions. Victories at the tap, however, haven't come without sticker shock. Aurora, for example, has raised rates for basic use 88 percent since 2001, with the first 1,000 gallons of water costing $3.60 cents, the highest price among the 10 cities surveyed. Rocky Mountain News_ 10/12/07

Southeastern U.S. drought may last longer than expected

Last week, Georgia announced a Level 4 Drought and issued a ban on all outdoor watering because of continued dry conditions. Now weather forecasters are saying the drought may continue to worsen for several more months. Just today, meteorologists at the Climate Prediction Center have announced they're expecting a mild winter with drier than normal conditions across the southeast. It predicts the drought will last longer than expected, causing lakes and rivers to continue to shrink. But meteorologists warn this prediction is only one of many models. WTVM_ 10/9/07

'Historic' drought hits U.S. southeast

From the shriveled cotton fields of northern Alabama to the browned lawns of suburban Atlanta, the Southeast is wilting under one of the most severe droughts in its history. In Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida, there has been less rain than at any time since records began in 1894. With lakes drying to record lows -- and scientists predicting a particularly warm, dry winter -- many officials across the region are wondering whether they will be able to supply residents with enough drinking water. In Monteagle, Tenn., the town's water is just days from running out, and officials are exploring mobile filtration and treatment units to produce drinking water. In Atlanta, a lake that provides most of the water to more than 5 million metropolitan residents is 12 feet below full pool, and it's falling 5 feet a month. Tensions are running high. "It is truly a historic drought, one of the worst in 100 years," said Douglas LeComte, a senior meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "And it's going to get worse before it gets better." Los Angeles Times_ 10/7/07 (logon required)

In New York's Utica area, residents worry about drinking water supply: It competes with Erie Canal and power generator

If managed properly, the area will have an adequate drinking-water supply for the future, local officials say as the region copes with continued restrictions on water usage. Yet many local residents say they are concerned about the adequacy of Hinckley Reservoir to supply drinking water to the Utica area even as it fills the state's canals and helps power hydroelectric plants. Three competing interests vie for water - the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, the New York State Canal Corp. and the New York State Power Authority. An apparent communication breakdown among the groups, combined with a drier-than-normal summer, sent the reservoir's levels spiraling well below water officials' comfort zone. At the end of September, the Mohawk Valley Water Authority restricted use to its 130,000 customers for the first time, and Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente declared a state of emergency. The Power Authority has temporarily stopped generating power at Hinckley until water levels rise again. The Canal Corp. did not return calls for this story. Utica Observer-Dispatch_ 10/6/07

Nebraska officials see hopeful signs in Republican River basin

Nebraska may wind up in court for using more Republican River water than allowed, but the state is building a case that it shouldn't be punished. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman says there's a good chance the Republican basin will be below its water-use cap next year, under a three-state compact. The agreement allocates 49% of the river's water to Nebraska, 40% to Kansas and 11% to Colorado. Kansas contends Nebraska took nearly 47 billion gallons of water more than it was due from 2003 to 2006. Nebraska officials say that figure is too high. AP/KFDA_ 9/24/07

Long Beach, California OKs rules to ration water

Southern California's water woes -- drought conditions combined with a federal judge's ruling that could limit water deliveries from Northern California -- hit home today as Long Beach imposed tough rationing rules. The city's water board declared an emergency that called on residents and business to restrict outside watering. Restaurants also are banned from serving water to customers unless they ask for it. Southern California is experiencing one of the driest seasons on record, with less than 4 inches of rain falling in downtown Los Angeles last year. It has created drought conditions that prompted officials across the region to seek voluntary water conservation. Long Beach officials also cited the drought and a Fresno judge's ruling last month protecting a rare fish found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Water officials said the ruling could cut water deliveries to Southern California by a third. Los Angeles Times_ 9/13/07 (logon required)

Drought takes toll on Kentucky marijuana crop

A severe drought that has parched corn and soybean fields across the Southeast has also scorched marijuana crops, leaving plants that should be 10 feet tall so puny that Sheriff Garrett Roberts and his deputies simply pull them up. "The plants we've seen have been anywhere from 2 inches to 5 1/2 feet tall," said Roberts, the chief law enforcer in eastern Kentucky's Lawrence County. Kentucky, one of the nation's top producers of marijuana, has seen a sharp decrease in production of the illegal crop this year. The weather there and in neighboring states is cutting into the supply, and street prices for the drug could rise, authorities say. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ranked Kentucky second last year behind California in the number of plants eradicated. AP/ABC News_ 9/7/07

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter urges teamwork to end water crisis

Ritter urged members of a special South Platte River task force today to put self interests aside and help end a water crisis that idled hundreds of irrigation wells in northeastern Colorado. With just one meeting left after today's gathering in Denver, the task force is struggling to find new ways to manage the river so that surface water users and well owners can co-exist. The group must craft a plan for lawmakers by Sept. 30. Rocky Mountain News_ 8/27/07

Back-pump plan could add water to parched Lake Okeechobee

A last-minute compromise could provide more water for drought-strained agriculture by pumping less-polluted water than once planned into Lake Okeechobee.  The South Florida Water Management District on Wednesday agreed to consider a plan to redirect or "back-pump" a limited amount of water from drainage canals into Lake Okeechobee.  Instead of tapping into all the stormwater that washes off farm fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area, the new proposal would take water out of the Miami Canal. That would allow the water to first go through stormwater treatment areas to filter out some of the fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants that wash off farmland.  The agricultural industry on Wednesday warned of dire economic impacts that would worsen next spring if the district didn't start storing more water in the lake. Environmentalists questioned whether the amount of water that could be saved would be worth the fish kills and threat to drinking water that could follow.  Sun-Setinel_8/8/07

Texas declared drought-free for 1st time in at least 10 years

Plentiful rains throughout Texas the past year led weather officials on Thursday to declare an end to drought conditions across the state for the first time in at least a decade. "We've gotten so much rain this year we've pretty much made up for the past few years' drought conditions in several areas of the state," said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state's climatologist and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. Only isolated areas in the northern Panhandle, far West Texas and along the eastern margins of the state are still below normal, he said. Heavy rains have caused major flooding in several parts of the state since mid-June. At least 16 people have died, and property damage has been widespread. Numerous rivers remain at or above flood level. AP/USA Today_ 7/27/07

Water finally flows back into Okeechobee
After 252 long, dry days, water is flowing south from the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee.  The amount isn't much, but it's still a milestone after an 18-month drought that has put much of South Florida on severe water restrictions.  The lake, at 9.11 feet above sea level on Wednesday, remains nearly four feet below normal for this time of year and has barely budged since hitting a record low of 8.82 feet on July 3 -- despite heavy rains across much of the region.  Finally, after some eight-plus inches of rain in the last month -- nearly three to four inches above normal -- the parched drainage basins lining the Kissimmee River and its chain of large lakes filled up enough to trigger flow to the south.  Miami Herald _ 7/25/07

Drought dollars flow to Plains states despite near normal rain

As the federal government prepares to send hundreds of millions of dollars to farm states deemed to have suffered from an ongoing drought, some folks say the payments amount to a boondoggle. Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska alone could receive around $73 million of the $3 billion in disaster aid available for losses in either 2005, 2006 or this year. And Kansas farmers and ranchers could get $121 million, according to an analysis by professors at Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The money is contained in the Iraq spending bill signed by President Bush recently. According to the Standardized Precipitation Index, Nebraska and Kansas received normal precipitation in 2005. And with the exception of one region in each state that was moderately dry, they got normal precipitation the following year, according to the index, which measures deviations from a precipitation baseline using historical data. The same was true for South Dakota. Information used for the index comes from the National Climatic Data Center and is mapped by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The precipitation record contrasts sharply with the picture of oppressive drought conditions painted by farm-state politicians as they pleaded for drought relief dollars and called it long overdue once approved. AP/Journal Star_ 7/16/07

Nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council warns water officials: Get used to drought

The drought and dry conditions currently gripping half the country are a taste of things to come, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) assessing the effects of global warming on water supplies in the West. The researchers say that as the hotter, drier weather already afflicting the region becomes the norm, officials responsible for keeping the taps flowing will need bold measures to improve conservation and efficiency. But drastic steps can be avoided if managers begin preparing now, the report says. Over the past eight years, the Colorado River, which supplies water to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, has received just over half its average flow. Southern California is experiencing its driest year on record. The Department of Water Resources predicts that every river in the southern Sierra Nevada will receive less than half of normal runoff this year. The NRDC report breaks new ground by analyzing the effects of global warming on a full range of water management tools and offering comprehensive recommendations to help meet the challenge. Conservation tops the list of proven water supply solutions. The report calls on regions to work much more closely together, developing cooperative solutions to meet their water needs and providing other important benefits. Download pdf of the full report, In Hot Water: Water Management Strategies to Weather the Effects of Global Warming. The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. News Release_ 7/10/07

Colorado's eastern plains farmers confront uncertain future as drought, cities' relentless thirst threaten agriculture

Nearly half the powerful irrigation wells that watered farmlands in the South Platte River Basin are now idle, silenced by drought, strict new water laws and a fierce battle for water now entering its fifth year. Since the drought struck in 2002, 4,000 of 9,000 wells have stopped pumping on this stretch of the eastern plains, leaving barren thousands of acres of corn and sugar beet fields. Similar scenarios are playing out in other Western states, including Idaho, where population growth and rising water use are forcing strict river management and better integration of underground and surface supplies. Last month, Gov. Bill Ritter formed a broad-based task force to examine whether the river can be managed more efficiently to benefit well users, surface users and cities. Rocky Mountain News_ 7/8/07

Southwest U.S. drought may last rest of the century: Blame global warming

Although it's hard to judge long-term trends from individual seasons, a study co-written by researchers at Columbia and Princeton universities confirms that long-term drought is already under way in the American Southwest — one that may last the rest of this century, if not longer. These scientists attribute this new climatology in one of the fastest-growing regions of the United States to global warming. Senior researcher and geophysicist Richard Seager of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute at Columbia University and his colleagues at Lamont-Doherty, and at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at Princeton, looked at 19 different computerized climate models from around the world. Similar to those used for weather forecasting, the models dated back to 1860 and projected to 2100. The models showed a marked increase in arid climate beginning around now and worsening through the current century. The team reported its findings this year at the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, often called the supreme court of climate science. Its research was also published in April in the journal Science. ABC News_ 7/6/07

South Florida water summit to help prepare for future droughts
Even before the end of the drought of 2007, a water summit on July 30 seeks to better prepare South Florida for dry years to come. Forecasters warn that summer rains might not be enough to lift South Florida out of one its worst droughts on record, setting up the possibility of an even worse water supply problem next year. Eric Buermann, the new chairman of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board wants to come up with responses to three scenarios: having too much water; the normal amount of water; and too little water. More uniform enforcement of watering rules, instead of communities setting different standards, could also be among the possible changes. The district in April issued an emergency order cutting off the flow of 500 million gallons of Everglades water a day into canals that help replenish well fields. Water also stopped flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which on Tuesday set another all-time-low record by dropping to 8.83 feet above sea level, about four feet below normal. One reason the lake dipped so low was because the Army Corps of Engineers, with support from the district, last year decided to lower the lake in anticipation of hurricanes that never came. South Florida Sun-Sentinel_ 7/4/07

Los Angeles on verge of driest season ever; Ft. Worth, Texas nears record rains

Barring a surprise arrival of the kind of gully washers Texas is getting these days, Los Angeles' driest rainy season in 130 years of record-keeping will go into the books this weekend. The nation's second-largest city is missing nearly a foot of precipitation for the rain year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Just 3.21 inches have fallen downtown in those 12 months, closer to Death Valley's numbers than the normal average of 15.14 inches. And it's much the same all over the West, from the measly snowpack and fire-scarred Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada to Arizona's shrinking Lake Powell and the withering Colorado River watershed. Los Angeles has already called for a voluntary 10 percent cut in water use. Texas, however, has had one of its wettest springs after back-to-back years of record drought. As of Friday morning, 10.97 inches of rain had fallen at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport for the month. That's only a half-inch short of what fell in June 1928, the rainiest on record. AP/Long Beach Press Telegram_ 6/29/07

Californians urged to cut water after driest year
Southern Californians, fond of their private pools, golf courses, garden sprinklers and the ubiquitous car wash, are being urged to reform their water-guzzling ways after the region's driest year on record.  A mere 3.2 inches of rain -- less than a quarter as much as usual -- fell on downtown Los Angeles in the year beginning on July 1, 2006, the lowest since records began 130 years ago.  A hot summer of short showers is forecast to follow.  Rainfall totals were little better in other nearby cities, something experts say is a reminder that current water consumption levels seem unsustainable.  The water sources hundreds of miles away that transformed Los Angeles from a semi-arid town 100 years ago into the nation's second-largest city are also shrinking.  Local water sources would support a population of about 3 million in southern California. Yet 18 million people now live here.  Reuters_7/1/07

Lake O water levels hit record low
Though deluges have fallen at times over the Treasure Coast in the past several days, so little rain has flowed into Lake Okeechobee that it dropped to a new record low on Saturday.  The lake fell to 8.88 feet from the previous record low of 8.89 feet set on June 1.  That record and the continuing drought across the whole region means that in Martin and St. Lucie counties, where there had been talk of relaxing water restrictions, residents will for now remain under a Phase II plan that only allows watering lawns and washing cars and boats two days a week.  "What we're seeing is that over the coastal areas, we're getting a lot of rainfall and everything is looking greener," said Jesus Rodriguez, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District. "But we're not getting rainfall where we need it, over the central areas and over Lake Okeechobee."  The rainfall situation left district managers still discussing whether to enact year-round water conservation rules for all of South Florida that could take effect on Sept. 17.  TCPalm_6/30/07

Georgia: Heard County's two water sources dry up

Heard County in west Georgia says the county's two water sources have dried up because of the drought.  The county banned all outdoor water use a month and a half ago. But the county has recorded only an inch and a half of rain in the past 40 days.  In the meantime, the Public Work's Department is installing pumps in a quarry to draw water out. Heard County also is buying water from neighborhing Carroll County.  Heard County Water Authority Director Jimmy Knight said county residents have been obeying the outdoor water ban. He said the county has issued only a few verbal warnings and only one written citation.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_6/28/07

More than one-third of U.S. in grip of menacing drought

North and South Carolina are fighting over a river. In Tennessee, springs are drying up, jeopardizing production of Jack Daniels whiskey. The mayor of Los Angeles is asking residents to take shorter showers. And in Georgia, the governor is praying for rain. More than one-third of the United States is in the grip of a menacing drought that threatens to make its way into Illinois and other Midwestern states before the summer ends. While much of the West has experienced drought for close to a decade, the latest system is centered over Alabama and extends to much of the Southeast, afflicting Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Virginia as well as parts of Arkansas and West Virginia. A level D4 drought, the most extreme level charted and the worst in the nation, is centered in northern Alabama and touches parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. Severe drought conditions are moving north into Kentucky. "It's one of the worst droughts in living memory in the Southeast," said Doug LeComte, a specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This happens only about every 50 years or so." Experts blame the Southeast's drought on a persistent high-pressure system that has kept rain away. In California, an abnormally dry winter is the culprit. Baltimore Sun/Chicago Tribune_ 6/19/07

Exceptional drought spreading from Alabama into Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia

The choking drought that's killing crops and turning streams into dusty trails across the Southeast is expanding. Previously limited to the northern half of Alabama, the drought classified as exceptional has grown like an ink blot to extend from eastern Mississippi across Alabama into southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia, government meteorologists said Thursday. They classify conditions in the region as being worse than even those in southern Florida, where Lake Okeechobee is drying up, and the perennially dry West. Overall, the entire Southeast is in at least a moderate drought, except for the southern tips of Florida and Louisiana, the northern reaches of North Carolina and Virginia and parts of Arkansas and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Conditions are the worst in Alabama where about 38% of the state is experiencing an exceptional drought. Many parts of the South have rainfall deficits in double digits for the year, and areas with the most extreme conditions are 20 inches or more below normal. Long-term forecasts show little chance for substantial rain unless a tropical system moves north across the Gulf of Mexico to displace a high-pressure system that is blocking moisture from entering the Southeast. AP/USAToday_ 6/5/07

Drought now 'extreme' in 11 northeast Georgia counties, but rain from Barry eases conditions in some other areas

State Climatologist David Stooksbury says drought conditions in 95 of the state's 159 counties are now termed "extreme." Beneficial rains from the remains of tropical storm Barry brought much needed rain to south-central, southeast, and east-central Georgia over the weekend. Much of the remainder of the state had little to no rainfall. "Extreme" drought conditions are defined as those expected once in 50 years. Stooksbury says the long-term outlook is for the drought to continue to intensify, he added, and little if any widespread, sustained relief from the drought is anticipated. Of Georgia's 159 counties, 95 are classified as being in extreme drought, 49 in severe drought, 12 in moderate drought and three in mild drought. AccessNorthGeorgia.com_ 6/5/07

May, 2007

Lake Okeechobee ties record low today as officials struggle to keep water flowing

Lake Okeechobee water levels tied their all-time low Wednesday as dry, windy conditions caused a high evaporation rate at the drought-stricken lake.  The current drought, coupled with decisions to lower the lake last year in anticipation of hurricanes that didn't materialize, left the lake at 8.97 feet on Wednesday. That was about 4 feet below normal and equal to the record low of 8.97 feet set during the drought of 2001. "As the primary back-up water supply for most South Florida residents, the lake is so low this year that its waters cannot be used to replenish the regional supply," the South Florida Water Management District said. The district also imposed Phase II water restrictions on primarily agricultural, industrial and commercial water users in parts of Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee, Lee, Martin, St. Lucie and western Palm Beach counties.  South Florida Sun-Sentinel _5/30/07

Florida strengthens water restrictions
South Florida residents and golf courses were placed under the region's most severe water restrictions on record Thursday, as officials try to cut use by up to 45 percent to offset unprecedented drought conditions.  "The seriousness of this drought and the public's role in cutting back cannot be overstated," said Carol Wehle, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.  The new rules mean outside watering will be cut to once a week in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Residents in Martin and St. Lucie counties will be allowed to water outside plants and lawns only twice a week.  Pumping from four coastal wells in Lantana, Lake Worth, Hallandale and Dania Beach will be cut back or eliminated as officials try to stave off saltwater intrusion that could taint the freshwater sources. More than 90 other wells are also in jeopardy and are being monitored.  "If we don't shut them down and the salt gets in the wells, they won't recover for decades," said district spokeswoman Julie Huber.

New development in South Florida must find alternative water sources such as reuse or desalinization as cities and counties are forced to use only currently allotted supplies, Wehle said.  "We are not allowing any increase to the amount of water that is being withdrawn," she said.  The drought is also hitting the agriculture industry, which was forced to cut back use by 50 percent last month, and digging into tourism dollars as many of the state's inland waterways dry up, removing opportunities for boating and fishing.  MSN_5/10/07

South Florida faces year-round water restrictions

Battling one of the worst droughts in history, South Florida remains behind much of the state when it comes to requiring residents to save water.  Year-round water restrictions are the norm in central, southwest and northeast Florida, but people living along the lower east coast didn't face forced cutbacks until March 22.  Even then, South Florida water managers started with three-times-a-week limits on lawn watering, and when conditions worsened they moved to twice-a-week limits April 13.  That was more than a year after northeast Florida imposed twice-a-week restrictions and about four years after that became the rule along much of the Gulf Coast, which prior to that had been under various restrictions for a decade. The Tampa Bay area went to once-a-week water limits in January."Anything more than two days a week is pretty much wasteful," said Michael Molligan, spokesman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which covers the Tampa Bay area.  Unlike the rest of the state, South Florida has a canal system, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades water to supplement underground supplies, and that has kept water restrictions as emergency measures, said Chip Merriam, district deputy executive director.  Now, with new requirements already in place for communities to develop more alternative water supplies, South Florida water managers are working on their own proposal for year-round restrictions to encourage conservation.  Sun-Sentinel.com_5/1/07

April, 2007

Drought dries up South Georgia

Counties throughout Southeast and South-central Georgia are experiencing extreme drought conditions, and area farmers are feeling the negative impact. Continuing weeks of little or no rain and rising temperatures have led to worsening conditions statewide, according to the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Extreme drought conditions are defined as those conditions which are expected to occur only once every 50 years based on multiple indicators including rainfall over the past one, three, six and 12 months, soil moisture, stream flow and groundwater levels. If the state has normal weather through the summer, the soils will continue to dry out, and stream flows and groundwater levels will continue to decrease. Water levels in reservoirs and farm ponds are expected to continue to lower over the next several months. “Every area of Georgia has been in a persistent and progressive drought condition since last June,” Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said. The U.S. Geological Survey reported daily record-low flows for Monday for rivers throughout the south, including the Ochlockonee River near Thomasville, the Alapaha near Alapaha and at Statenville, the Suwannee at Fargo and the Satilla near Waycross and at Atkinson. Valdosta Daily Times_ 4/27/07

Oklahoma's underground water resources might be disappearing

Water levels in Oklahoma’s underground aquifers have dropped for decades and the situation has been made worse by recent drought, water experts say. Heavy spring rains in recent weeks have had only minimal impact, said Oklahoma Water Resources Board spokesman Brian Vance, and he said the board is considering changes in the way it calculates how much water each user can take, based on the number of wells pulling from a single source. He said current laws are based on an assumption that users would drain an aquifer within 20 years. Vance said a study by the board has indicated the levels of Oklahoma’s major aquifers have dropped in the last five years. The Garber-Wellington Aquifer, which lies under Oklahoma City, plunged more than six feet from 2001 to 2006. The Ogallala Aquifer in the Panhandle, the Rush Springs Aquifer in western Oklahoma and the Antlers Aquifer in far southeastern Oklahoma all have dropped more than three feet during the same period, while the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer in south-central Oklahoma has fallen more than 21 feet. AP/Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise_ 4/17/07

South Florida drought may require use of water from remnants of the Everglades

To counteract a worsening drought in South Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has considered taking water from conservation areas to prevent salt water from damaging wells on the east coast, Gov. Charlie Crist learned in a briefing Monday. Taking water from the region's three conservation areas, which could harm wildlife such as fish and endangered species of birds, may be necessary because of the extremely low water level in Lake Okeechobee - which is usually the backup water source in South Florida. But Crist and other officials said dipping into those conservation areas, which are the remnants of the Everglades, would be a last ditch effort to provide the public with drinking water. The state requested earlier this year that the corps, which regulates the water levels, look into allowing water out of the conservation areas. AP/Florida Times-Union

Water managers OK stricter restrictions for South Florida

Water managers on Thursday increased temporary watering limits and started the process to impose permanent restrictions on yard watering in South Florida. Beginning Friday, yard watering is limited to twice a week for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Those restrictions are expected to remain in place until the region emerges from a drought threatening to become one of the worst on record. Under the permanent cutbacks being considered, yard watering would be limited to three times a week year round. "The free water and the unending supply is over," said Michael Collins, who serves on the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District. State emergency management officials were in South Florida today to start planning for drought response. That could include economic help for agriculture and other industries expected to suffer from the drought. Starting April 15, enforcement officers are supposed to start issuing tickets instead of warnings to first time offenders caught breaking watering rules. Sun-Sentinel_ 4/12/07

San Francisco, California utility calls on 2.4 million users to cut water use by 10 percent

Failure to reduce water use by June will mean the kind of mandatory water restrictions that the area hasn't seen in 15 years. The order comes from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs of the Hetch Hetchy water system. Managers are worried about summer water shortages after an unusually dry winter. The system provides water to about a third of the Bay Area's population. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is 46 percent of normal - the lowest this time of year since 1990. Meanwhile, rainfall totals around the Bay Area are barely half of normal for this time of the year, and the rainy season is nearly over. It's the closest the region has come to a drought, they say, since the drought of 1987 to 1992. San Jose Mercury News_ 4/11/07 (logon required)

Inspectors cruising South Florida neighborhoods for sprinkler violators

The water police have hit South Florida's streets. The same municipal machinery that makes sure a new roof complies with the building code has swung into action to enforce the new restrictions on using water.  Code inspectors are already cruising neighborhoods looking for sprinklers operating on the wrong day or at the wrong time. While cities generally are handing out only warnings to violators, that will change soon.  This year, facing one of the worst droughts on record, the district's governing board voted to restrict car washing, lawn watering and other uses to three days a week. The restrictions are scheduled to tighten to two days a week April 13. The water management district has asked cities to stop issuing warnings after April 15 and go to citations. Fines vary from city to city based on local ordinances. In Delray Beach, a first offense costs $100 and a second, $200. In Boca Raton, fines will be up to a special master, and could hit $1,000. In Fort Lauderdale, a first offense costs $25 and later offenses up to $500.  South Florida Sun-Sentinel_4/5/07

Florida supplier delcares water emergency
Southwest Florida's biggest water supplier says it will be down to a one-week supply by spring's end if drought conditions worsen as projected.  The harshest drought since 2001 led the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority to declare a water shortage emergency Wednesday.  The order makes it easier to beef up dwindling supplies by moving water from utilities in Manatee and Sarasota counties, which are producing more than they use, to the authority's storage wells in DeSoto County.  The declaration also urges counties to cut their water usage, step up enforcement against illegal lawn watering, and plug any leaks in their water lines.  Despite the "dire" projection, the authority won't run dry, said Mike Coates, who manages the authority's water supplies.  Before that happens, the state would let utilities boost the amount of groundwater they pump. They are reluctant to take that step, though, since the region's aquifers are already depleted.  Herald Tribune_4/5/07

No longer waiting for rain, an arid western U.S. takes action

A Western drought that began in 1999 has continued after the respite of a couple of wet years that now feel like a cruel tease. But this time people in the driest states are not just scanning the skies and hoping for rescue. Some $2.5 billion in water projects are planned or under way in four states, the biggest expansion in the West's quest for water in decades. Among them is a proposed 280-mile pipeline that would direct water to Las Vegas from northern Nevada. A proposed reservoir just north of the California-Mexico border would correct an inefficient water delivery system that allows excess water to pass to Mexico. In Yuma, Ariz., federal officials have restarted an idled desalination plant, long seen as a white elephant from a bygone era, partly in the hope of purifying salty underground water for neighboring towns. The scramble for water is driven by the realities of population growth, political pressure and the hard truth that the Colorado River, a 1,400-mile-long silver thread of snowmelt and a lifeline for more than 20 million people in seven states, is providing much less water than it had. According to some long-term projections, the mountain snows that feed the Colorado River will melt faster and evaporate in greater amounts with rising global temperatures, providing stress to the waterway even without drought. This year, the spring runoff is expected to be about half its long-term average. In only one year of the last seven, 2005, has the runoff been above average. Everywhere in the West, along the Colorado and other rivers, as officials search for water to fill current and future needs, tempers are flaring among competing water users, old rivalries are hardening and some states are waging legal fights. New York Times_ 4/4/07 (logon required)

March, 2007

Southern California's dry spell could turn into 'the perfect drought'

Nature is pulling a triple whammy on Southern California this year. Whether it's the Sierra, the Southland or the Colorado River Basin, every place that provides water to the region is dry. It's a rare and troubling pattern, and if it persists it could thrust the region into what researchers have dubbed the perfect Southern California drought: when nature shortchanges every major branch of the far-flung water network that sustains 18 million people. The mountain snowpack vital to water imports from Northern California is at the lowest level in nearly two decades. The Los Angeles area has received record low rainfall this winter, contributing to an early wildfire season that included Friday's blaze in the Hollywood Hills. And the Colorado River system remains in the grip of one of the worst basin droughts in centuries. UCLA geography professor Glen MacDonald, who has researched drought patterns in California and the Colorado River Basin over the last 1,000 years, said "you have extreme to severe drought extending over Southern California and also along the east and west slopes of the Sierra, and then you have it in the Colorado [basin], particularly Wyoming." That, coupled with wet winter weather patterns in the southern Great Lakes region and the Northeast, MacDonald said, "is extremely similar to the last time we had a perfect drought, which was the late 1980s, early 1990s." Thanks to a bountiful Sierra snowpack in the spring of 2006, the state's reservoirs are in good shape. Southern California water managers say they have ample supplies in reserve and are better prepared for a prolonged dry spell than they were two decades ago. Los Angeles Times_ 3/31/07 (logon required)

Southeast Florida gets water use restrictions after months of below-normal rainfall

Measures adopted Thursday are aimed at cutting the region's water consumption by 15 percent and more in some areas. The three orders, signed by District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle, declared a severe water shortage for the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, a moderate water shortage for the Lower East Coast and residential areas in the St. Lucie County Agricultural Area and a water shortage cease withdrawal order for consumptive use permit holders the St. Lucie County Agricultural Area. The orders go into effect March 22. Counties affected are Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach, an area of about 5.5 million people. The restrictions will be most severe in the area of Lake Okeechobee and on growers. The lake is the main water supply for farmers in the area and the backup water supply for South Florida. WPBF-TV/MSNBC_ 3/15/07

Los Angeles facing its driest year ever: National Weather Service

Only about 2.40 inches of rain has fallen on downtown Los Angeles since July 1, and there's no sign of rain through at least the middle of this month. Forecasters expected February — historically Los Angeles' wettest month — to provide some relief, but it didn't. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather models suggest that a La Niña climate pattern is emerging in the Pacific, continuing the drought-like conditions. The last time it was remotely this dry was 1924, when 2.50 inches of rain had fallen. Los Angeles Times_ 3/6/07 (logon required)

Editor's Note: This is a great pdf graphic showing the water situation in California and the Western U.S. Los Angeles Times_ 3/6/07 (logon required)

February, 2007

Corps of Engineers says Missouri River runoff not looking good, again

It says the mountain snowpack is well below normal, and expected runoff this year will be 23 percent below normal. The amount of water in the six Missouri River reservoirs at the end of January was a record low for the month. AP/ KXnet.com_ 2/10/07


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