Drought Headlines Archive
Drought Headlines Archive
Forecasts show drought continuing in California, Southwest
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jan 15, 2015
The start of the year has been unusually dry in the Southwest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Weather and Climate Center, and forecasts do not show improvement for Northern California and Nevada.
Recent dry spell means snowpack figures are worsening
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Jan 14, 2015
Snowpack readings have fallen to less than 50 percent in the Walker River Basin. The snow water equivalent values were dropping about a half of one percentage point or more daily. With the high pressure ridge off the coast of California, not many storms are expected.
Stray satellite signals help measure snowfall in arid West
Yahoo! News, Jan 09, 2015
Errant satellite signals were found to reveal snowpack depth and soil moisture information in the West. Kristine Larson, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado, made the discovery about four years ago and continues to track observations from about 500 GPS receivers.
State braces for another year of drought
Albuquerque Journal (N.M.), Jan 07, 2015
Meager mountain snows in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado led the National Water and Climate Center to forecast another year of drought for New Mexico. Even a wet spring may not rescue the state from below average flows on the Rio Grande River.
Farmers in the southern part of the state will feel the pain because Elephant Butte Reservoir held only 13 percent of capacity.
California Dairies Look To Midwest’s Greener Pastures
NET (Lincoln, Neb.), Dec 17, 2014
California dairy owners are increasingly selling cattle and moving to the Midwest for new opportunities to raise dairy cattle. High feed costs, state business and environmental regulations, drought and, in some cases, almonds, have driven farmers to give up on the dairy business. Almond production is attractive because demand for the nut is high, as is the profit margin.
South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas are popular states drawing dairymen from California.
Bad Year for Big Country Cotton Growers
KTAB TV 32 & KRBC TV 9 (Abilene, Texas), Dec 16, 2014
Low prices for cotton and reduced cotton production due to drought has hurt farmers significantly in the Big Country of Texas. A cotton ginner reported that most of the cotton in the region was shredded because cotton production was so low. With less cotton to gin, the gin brought in fewer workers, who will certainly miss the paycheck.
Water worries multiply in Eastern Oregon
Capital Press (Salem, Ore.), Dec 11, 2014
Three consecutive years of drought and meager snowfall in Eastern Oregon have cost farmers tens of millions in lost or unplanted crops. Water supplies for 2015 were not looking very good because the project usually carries over 350,000 to 500,000 acre-feet of available storage, but only had 30,000 acre-feet to carry over this year.
Cattle prices could lead to thefts
Salina Journal (Kansas), Nov 22, 2014
Kansas farmers and ranchers were warned to be on guard against cattle rustlers. A livestock production agent with the Central Kansas Extension District cautioned that record high cattle prices could make cattle an attractive way to make a quick buck. Steers were selling for $1,300 to $2,000, according to the Farmers & Ranchers Livestock Commission.
Drought revives 'forgotten art' at wineries: Farming without irrigation
Los Angeles Times, Nov 23, 2014
More California grape growers are considering dry farming as ongoing drought reduces the region’s water supply. The right type of soil to absorb and retain natural moisture is essential, as is the right vines that produce deep roots to reach moisture. Growers must also till carefully and manage soil well to help vines get through the summer months. Dry farming can lead to reduced yields, but often produces higher quality grapes.
Business & Industry
Marin Sun Farms to close San Francisco facility
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Nov 17, 2014
Marin Sun Farms will close its San Francisco meat processing plant at the end of 2014. The rising cost of doing business and the lingering financial impacts from drought on beef producers made it a wise decision to shutter the San Francisco plant.
State exports stay strong despite slowing ag shipments
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov 04, 2014
California’s exports of non-manufactured goods, consisting of mainly agricultural produce and raw materials, were nearly the same as last year, which analysts say was a byproduct of the exceptional drought gripping the state.
“With each passing month, we are seeing mounting evidence of the adverse impact the drought is having on California’s multibillion-dollar agricultural export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser with Beacon, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
California drought boosts South Bay synthetic turf businesses as homeowners turn to artificial grass
Torrance Daily Breeze (California), Oct 27, 2014
South Bay, California
The California synthetic turf industry is thriving as sales skyrocket. One South Bay landscaper reported jumps in annual revenues from under $300,000 in 2012 to more than $2.5 million in the first nine months of the year. An artificial grass supplier based in Torrance reported turf sales for 2014 are on track to be double those of 2013, when 625,000 square feet of turf were sold.
California drought worries pool industry
Yahoo! Finance, Oct 05, 2014
The California pool industry is concerned that more than three dozen water agencies and cities have set rules on pool maintenance. In some cities, residents may not drain or refill pools or must cover pools with covers to reduce evaporation. While business is fine at present, people in the pool industry worry that ongoing drought will eventually hurt pool-related businesses. The California Pool & Spa Association says that pools use less water than traditionally irrigated lawns, and the use of a pool cover reduces evaporation by up to 90 percent.
Drought Shutters Hydro Power Generation
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nev.), Jul 30, 2014
Three hydropower plants belonging to the Truckee Meadows Power Authority were shutting down because there was not enough water to keep the plants operating. The plants will probably be able to generate hydropower again in January or February.
Drought hinders state's emissions goals
San Francisco Chronicle, Jul 20, 2014
Drought has cut into hydropower production in California, driving energy costs higher as the state turns to other more expensive energy sources. Hydropower generation dropped from 18.2 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2012 when drought began.
Despite years of decreases in greenhouse gas emissions since 2004, California’s emissions began to rise in 2012, due to drought and the closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant in San Diego County. Emissions data for 2013 were not yet available.
California may rely on more gas-fired generation due to drought
Reuters, Jan 10, 2014
With less water stored in California reservoirs, less hydropower will likely be produced in the state in 2014, leading to greater reliance on natural gas-fired power production.
In 2011, hydropower accounted for an above average 21.3 percent and natural gas was used for 45.4 percent of in-state electricity production. In 2012, dry conditions in California shifted the balance to 13.8 percent hydropower and 61.1 percent gas-fired generation. Hydropower is cheaper than gas-fired power.
WILDFIRES: Threat should be dropping this time of year – but isn't
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), Nov 15, 2014
Firefighting resources in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are being kept at summer levels. Normally at this time of year, reductions in staffing and equipment are made, but the fire danger remains high, so the staffing reduction is being postponed. The U.S. Forest Service also has kept its staffing levels high in the San Bernardino National Forest and the Cleveland National Forest and continues to renew contracts for firefighting airplanes on a weekly basis.
Wildfires prove costly for California budget
Los Angeles Times, Sep 29, 2014
The expense of fighting California’s many wildfires has used the $209 million set aside for the task, prompting Gov. Brown to access another $70 million from a reserve account, containing $449 million designated for unexpected costs like natural disasters, as fires continue to burn. The federal government may reimburse the state for some of the firefighting costs incurred so far.
State officials set aside more money than usual for firefighting, but the funds were spent less than three months after they were marked for firefighting. In addition, the extra money spent on firefighting has made the governor reluctant to commit funds to other programs.
Pacific Northwest wildfire season: Oregon and Washington topped nation in acres burned
Oregon Live (Portland, Ore.), Sep 24, 2014
Oregon and Washington endured 3,270 wildfires that burned 1,284,013 acres of federal, state and private land from the start of 2014 through Sept. 22, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The number of fires was lower than the 10-year average, but the spatial extent of the fires was nearly three times the 10-year average of 452,039 acres. The largest fire in each state was the Carlton Complex in Washington at 256,108 acres and the Buzzard Complex in southeastern Oregon at 395,747 acres. Both states have been affected by drought since the start of the year.
Total firefighting costs have risen to $446 million, in comparison with $235 million at this time last year, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Little rain makes for anxious fire officials
FOX6 WBRC-TV (Birmingham, Alabama), Aug 30, 2014
Dry conditions have allowed more fires than usual across Alabama, where summer is not normally a part of their fire season. During a recent seven-day period, 43 wildfires blackened more than 593 acres, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Plants & Wildlife
Delta water weed problems called the worst in years
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jan 21, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
Weeds proliferated in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, clogging harbors, trapping boats in their slips, hindering cargo deliveries, endangering migrating birds and jeopardizing the safety of those who navigate the waters. Drought is responsible for conditions conducive to the growth of water hyacinth and other weeds.
Delta fish species plunge amid drought
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Jan 14, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
Populations of five fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta dropped dramatically during the past year of drought when freshwater flows failed to support their habitat. The affected fish include the Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, threadfin shad and striped bass. Delta smelt numbers nosedived to record lows in the fall fish survey. Water diversions for humans, pollution, habitat loss and invasive species also affect fish counts.
Santa Clara County residents may have to cut water use further — for the fish
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Jan 06, 2015
Santa Clara County, California
Santa Clara County officials were debating whether to withhold water from people during drought to sustain fish, such as steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, and were seeking opinions from their water customers before deciding. Water levels and fish populations dropped immensely this year.
Coho salmon vanish in Muir Woods, fanning fears of extinction
The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon), Nov 30, 2014
Marin County, California
Coho salmon that typically swim up Redwood Creek into Muir Woods did not appear this year and may be nearing extinction. No salmon eggs were found in Muir Woods this past winter, and no baby coho were seen this summer. Biologists think the 2014 generation was extinct, but that suspicion has not yet been confirmed. Officials blamed decades of environmental pollution, habitat degradation and drought for the fishes’ disappearance.
Drought blamed for bear activity
Curry Coastal Pilot (Brookings, Oregon), Nov 18, 2014
Hungry bears have been causing problems in the Brookings area because drought prevented a good acorn crop. Apple trees and garbage have been targets of the famished bruins, prompting a spike in calls to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife during the past month with up to five calls in a single day.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
January looking dry, next few months warm
The Bakersfield Californian, Jan 15, 2015
The California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cooperated in devising a plan to change water quality rules and water rights permits to contend with ongoing drought and submitted it to state regulators.
Farmers, utilities lose bid to overturn delta smelt protections
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Jan 12, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
Appeals by Central Valley farmers and California water districts wanting to pull more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were brought to the U.S. Supreme Court and refused. A 2008 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to protect Delta smelt, a threatened species, still stands and limits the amount of water that can be drawn from the delta for the use of Central Valley farmers and water districts.
States in Parched Southwest Take Steps to Bolster Lake Mead
The New York Times, Dec 17, 2014
Colorado River Basin
Officials with water agencies in Arizona, California and Nevada signed an agreement at the Colorado River Water Users Association conference to try to protect Lake Mead from dwindling further. The cooperating states intend to add up to three million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead by 2020 through conservation and changes in water management to limit demand on the lake. Forty million people rely on Lake Mead for water, and a lot of electricity is generated there and also at Lake Powell.
Lake Mead was about 40 percent full and just 10 feet above the trigger for the federal government to declare a shortage and start water rationing. The federal Bureau of Reclamation says rationing could happen as early as the spring of 2016 and is likely in 2017.
With future uncertain, Colorado shields its water
Yahoo! News, Dec 09, 2014
Colorado River Basin
The director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board announced that his state would not be sacrificing their water allotment to aid parched California, which was running low on water. Water managers from other states in the Colorado River basin shared that sentiment.
Society & Public Health
Westwide snow school to teach sampling and survival
Elko Daily Free Press (Nev.), Jan 09, 2015
Tahoe City, California
Participants at the annual Westwide Snow Survey School in Tahoe City, Calif., receive instruction in snow sampling, avalanche recognition, outdoor survival and emergency care. Normally they also must build a snow cave and spend the night in it, but this year, a new activity will replace the snow cave exercise. Participants will have to improvise shelter outdoors, but likely without snow for insulation. With the training area in its fourth year of drought, surveyors must be prepared to survive in snowless situations.
California drought brings smaller harvests, more hunger among farmworkers
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Dec 26, 2014
Southern Central Valley in California
Farmworkers in the southern Central Valley continued to struggle to get by as agricultural employers cut jobs, due to drought, leading to hunger in an area where half of the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts are grown. Many laborers relied on charity to keep food on the table. Undocumented workers suffer most because they cannot get food stamps and other federal assistance. The ripple effects are felt by farm-related businesses as the regional economy shares the pain.
Duncan budget proposal cuts raises, hiring
KSWO-TV ABC 7 (Lawton, Okla.), Dec 15, 2014
The 2015 budget for Duncan includes pay and hiring freezes so the town can save nearly $1 million. Drought and past debts were some of several factors resulting in reduced revenue and the need to save money.
Beef prices soar upward
Brownsville Herald (Texas), Dec 01, 2014
“All Fresh” retail beef rose another 5 cents during October to a new high of $5.96 per pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as reported by CattleFax. “All Fresh” reflects the composite price for all fresh beef, in contrast to frozen or imported beef, and the price looks like it will average 14 percent higher for 2014, compared to last year.
Tourism & Recreation
Drought suspends cross country skiing near Tahoe
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Jan 21, 2015
Lake Tahoe area, California
A lack of snow led Tahoe Donner Cross Country near Truckee to close until the area receives more snowfall. A spokeswoman for the ski resort said they tried to keep trails and snowshoeing areas suitable for use, but without snow, there is little they can do. All programs, clinics and events are postponed until conditions improve.
Washoe Lake north of Carson City nearly dry after five years of drought
Nevada Appeal (Carson City), Nov 29, 2014
Washoe Lake in western Nevada
Employees at Washoe Lake State Park have come up with new activities to entertain visitors rather than using water-based activities because the lake is very low. Park visitors can enjoy moonlight hikes and stargazing. While Washoe Lake used to be 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, the lake has shrunk to roughly one-tenth of its former size.
Lake-level watching is new tourism fad
Merced Sun-Star (Calif.), Nov 16, 2014
More tourists were flocking to see foundations, old bridges and other relics as drought depletes California lakes and exposes objects not seen in many years. In Lake Don Pedro, the foundation from the stamp mill of the old Eagle-Shawmut mine has reappeared. Hundreds of curious people have visited the lake to have a look and sometimes enjoy a picnic.
Many visitors to the New Melones Visitor Center near Highway 49 on the Tuolumne County side of the New Melones Lake inquire about when certain landmarks will become visible.
At Lake McClure, the old Yosemite Railway tunnels are high above the water line and have been exposed for several months. Tourists can also view the concrete pillars of the railroad’s old Barrett Bridge and bits of the foundations from the town and rail stop of Bagby.
As drought continues, boat ramps close on area lakes
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Oct 17, 2014
Dallas-Fort Worth area
Ongoing drought has dropped lake levels to the point that many boat ramps were no longer useable in north central Texas. The last accessible boat ramp at Eagle Mountain Lake was closed mid-September when water levels fell to a critical point.
At Benbrook Lake, the only open boat ramp was at Mustang Park. Many boat ramps were closed at Lake Grapevine, but most ramps were still open at Joe Pool Lake, Lewisville Lake and Lake Ray Roberts.
Worsening California drought starting to limit outdoor recreation
San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 17, 2014
Numerous California lakes and parks continue to feel the pain of the ongoing drought. Yosemite Falls has gone dry; many parks have porta potties for use, instead of flush toilets; and boat ramps were closed. Many plants were also showing drought stress by turning color and dropping leaves early.
Water Supply & Quality
Harvard buys up water rights in drought-hit wine country
Reuters, Jan 22, 2015
Paso Robles, California
The value of land with wells has risen in the Paso Robles area and also in Sonoma and Napa counties. Irrigable land around Paso Robles was selling for $15,000 to $20,000 per acre, compared to $3,000 for an acre of dry pasture. The price for irrigable land has increased dramatically during drought and is expected to climb. The cost of land in the Napa Valley and Sonoma ranges from $75,000 to $100,000 per acre.
Drought fears return with signs of 4th straight dry year
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Jan 16, 2015
Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies met in Sacramento to urge the public to ramp up water conservation efforts because the state could be looking at a fourth year of drought. State reservoirs remained alarmingly low.
California drought: State residents increase conservation but still fall far short of governor's goal
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jan 06, 2015
Statewide, water conservation climbed to 9.8 percent in November compared to November 2013. In the South Coast region, comprised of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties, conservation amounted to 3.2 percent, while in the Bay Area and Sacramento, water consumption was 18 and 25 percent. Temperature differences and more rainfall in Northern California may have contributed to the difference in conservation results.
The first snow survey of 2015 showed the snowpack to be 43 percent of normal for this date. California’s largest reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, rose to about 40 percent of capacity, despite the December rainfall. Those reservoirs are typically around 60 percent full at this time of year.
Dallas drought measures may see new types of enforcement
The Dallas Morning News, Jan 06, 2015
Dallas’ reservoirs were 35.4 percent depleted on Jan. 2, compared to being 27.7 percent depleted at the start of 2014. The water deficit beyond 35 percent triggered the first stage of drought plans, limiting outdoor watering to twice weekly, requiring the use of an auto shut-off nozzle for home car washing and prohibiting water run-off. Enforcement will be more stringent because the first contingency threshold has been crossed.
Brazil's largest city goes black
Futures (Chicago), Jan 22, 2015
Brazil may be in for energy rationing later this summer because its reservoirs are depleted and the rainy season has been a disappointment. There is concern that reduced hydropower production and energy rationing could push the country into recession.
Drought Threatens Sugar Crop in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal
Bloomberg, Jan 20, 2015
While the sugar crop in KwaZulu-Natal has weeks yet to benefit from rainfall, one of the region’s sugar mills will not open in anticipation of a meager crop. Eighty percent of South Africa’s sugar cane is grown in KwaZulu-Natal.
Water stress takes toll on California's large trees, study says
Los Angeles Times, Jan 20, 2015
California’s forests have become denser with smaller trees and more susceptible to fast-moving wildfires, due to drought, fire-suppression techniques and changes in land use. Tree surveys performed between 1929 and 1936 and 2001 and 2010 were analyzed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey. The surveys showed a reduction in large tree density across the state with drops as high as 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central Coast Ranges and Northern California.
Ag uses for highly saline water researched
Albuquerque Journal (N.M.), Jan 05, 2015
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Experiments with alternative water sources, like wastewater and highly saline water, to irrigate crops and urban areas were underway at New Mexico State University. The aim is to conserve potable water and maintain agricultural practices, said a professor of soil physics at NMSU. Barley and triticale, biomass plants lepidium alyssoides and switchgrass, and fodder plants Atriplex and NiPa Grass are being used.
Floods Breed Cooperation, Droughts Breed Conflict
Water Online, Dec 16, 2014
Floods require emergency response that is short-lived, while droughts often mean sustained response efforts where decisions over water allocations must be made, sometimes leading to conflict.
Study finds varied fish response to unexpected droughts
Phys.org (Great Britain), Dec 15, 2014
Native fish populations on the Upper Verde River in Arizona decreased during droughts and increased during floods, while non-native populations did not vary much, according to research conducted by Albert Ruhí with Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
Plants have little wiggle room to survive drought, UCLA life scientists report
UCLA Newsroom (Los Angeles), Nov 13, 2014
Researchers from the University of California and China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden found that plants have the ability to adapt to drought conditions by adjusting the amount of salt in their cell sap, which allows them to draw more water into their cells. Plants were found to be able to make only small adjustments in the salt content of their cell sap, giving them little capacity to respond to drought.
Drought Headlines Archive
Cloud seeding, no longer magical thinking, is poised for use this winter
The Sacramento Bee (California), Nov 11, 2013
Cloud seeding will continue to be used in California during the 2013-14 winter to boost snowfall and increase water supplies in a state that has endured two years of drought. Cloud-seeding efforts in California began more than 60 years ago and involve the spraying of silver iodide into clouds.
USDA study shows benefits of weaning calves early
Drovers Cattle Network (Lenexa, Kansas), Aug 29, 2013
Weaning calves early during drought allows cows to gain more weight and achieve better body condition than cows with nursing calves. Consequently, less harvested feedstuffs were needed for cows to maintain adequate body weights and condition during the winter.
USDA Recommends New Practice to Combat Drought
WIUM-FM Tri States Public Radio (Macomb, Illinois), Aug 27, 2013
The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service says that drain water management techniques can help farmers cope with drought as they regulate how much water is allowed to drain from a field. A device can be attached to the ends of tile lines to act as a valve to keep needed moisture from draining away.
FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: Cover crops boost yield in dry years
The Quincy Herald-Whig (Ill.), Aug 21, 2013
The use of cover crops boosted agricultural output in drought-stricken areas in 2012. In the fall of 2012 from a survey of more than 750 farmers in the Midwest, corn crops planted after cover crops yielded 9.6 percent more corn in comparison with side-by-side fields without cover crops. Soybean yields were 11.6 percent higher following cover crops.
In the driest parts of the Corn Belt, the differences were even more striking, with an 11 percent increase in yield for corn and a 14.3 percent yield increase for soybeans.