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Executive Summary for July 31st

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary.

Published on July 31, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Big Progress on Water Conservation, But Many Lag

About two-thirds of California’s large water agencies met or exceeded the state’s 25 percent water conservation mandate in June, the best progress of the state’s four-year drought. Overall, the state saved 27.3 percent.

The numbers are the latest update from the State Water Resources Control Board, which is tracking the progress and has the power to fine water agencies that fail to comply.

Some water agencies exceeded the goal by large margins, cutting water use 40 percent or more in June compared to 2013, including: Tahoe City Public Utility District, city of Santa Barbara, Antelope Valley Waterworks District, West Sacramento, Elk Grove, Contra Costa Water District and the city of Livermore.

“It’s been a huge lift in a short amount of time,” Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, told the San Jose Mercury News.

There were also laggards. About one-third of the total, or 140 water agencies, missed their targets by more than 5 percent. Sixteen agencies missed by more than 15 percent, including: the city of Livingston, in Merced County, which saved only 3 percent; Fallbrook Public Utility District; and the cities of Hanford and Adelanto. The city of Arcata and Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District actually saw water consumption increase.

The 25 percent mandate was imposed in May after water agencies in 2014 failed to meet a 20 percent order. Now, water agencies can be fined as much as $10,000 per day for failing to comply. Water board officials said they will meet with poor-performing agencies before deciding to impose fines.

“I guarantee you if folks don’t step up, we will go to the fine stage,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the water board.

Raising Shasta Dam Too Expensive for Federal Government

The federal government won’t pay to raise Shasta Dam by 18 feet, according to a final report released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam.

Typically, Congress approves up-front funding for such projects, then the costs are repaid over 40 or 50 years by selling water and hydropower. But the report states that scenario is “unrealistic” because of budget constraints.

The project is feasible. But the report’s conclusion means other agencies, such as the water agencies that buy water from the bureau, would be left to work out how to pay for it.

The project is one of five major reservoir projects currently on the table to store more water in California. The Shasta Dam raise is estimated to cost $1.3 billion, which coincidentally is equal to the entirety of the federal support proposed in a California water bill proposed this week by Sen. Diane Feinstein to fund numerous projects.

Tulare County: Ground Zero of the California Drought

More than 5,400 residents of Tulare County have no running water in their homes, mainly because they are so rural that they aren’t connected to a public water system and their wells have gone dry.

That is one of facts that makes Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley possible the hardest hit community in all of California as a result of the ongoing drought.

Of the 1,200 Tulare County homes without running water, about 1,000 have signed up for emergency water deliveries offered by the county as a stopgap measure. Some have gone without running water for more than a year.

“It’s a huge hygiene issue where we don’t have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina,” says Susana De Anda, director of the Community Water Center, a nonprofit serving the area. “The relief came but it came kind of late.”

Photo courtesy by AP / Scott Smith

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