For the last few winters, forecasters have seen promising El Niño conditions form in the Pacific, only for the conditions to fizzle in 2013 (jokingly referred to as “la nada”) and again in 2014. For this winter, scientists now have no doubt that El Niño conditions will remain in the Pacific – the only questions are when the rains will begin and how severe they will be. According to the latest NOAA readings, current average temperatures in the Southern Pacific (dubbed “Region 3.4”) are 3.0 degrees centigrade above normal, which is higher than the 2.8 degrees above normal that the 1997-98 El Niño pattern saw at its peak during the week of November 26, 1997. The strength of the current El Niño conditions have led some scientists to dub the pattern as “Godzilla,” and some scientists predict that the conditions could bring a wave of very strong storms to the Western United States this winter. Continue reading
In the midst of California’s fourth year of drought, cities and water districts are starting to get tougher on both individual water wasters and cities that are not reaching state-mandated water reduction targets. In late October, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District outside of San Francisco released the names and data of the top-100 water wasters in the District. The list includes venture capitalists, business executives and even former and current baseball and basketball stars. The top water waster identified was Chevron executive George Kirkland, who used an average of 12,579 gallons per day. Extrapolating that water usage to a monthly basis (assuming 30 days in a month), Kirkland was on pace to use more than one acre-foot per month, more than an average California household uses in an entire year! Continue reading
The California Drought has elicited fascinating reactions. Water was moved by truck—whether to meet basic human health and safety needs in areas where wells ran dry; comfort and aesthetic needs in affluent communities like Montecito; or individual luxury needs, like the case of the celebrity who was fined for illegally transporting water over district boundaries to his estate. “Drought shaming” (use of social media by individuals to identify and reprove water wasters) emerged as a common and acceptable practice. Almonds were vilified. And some individuals even push back and deny that the drought exists.