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Executive Summary for August 12th

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

Published on Aug. 12, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Hoping for a Wet Winter

Gov. Jerry Brown is already promising water agencies their conservation mandates will be relaxed next year.

At a meeting in San Diego, Brown told a number of water agency officials they can expect more lenient conservation rules when his present emergency drought order expires in February 2016.

Without making promises, Brown said he understood that changes are needed as the state makes stepped-up conservation permanent.

“There’ll be lots of adjustments,” Brown said.

Numerous water agencies have complained they are hurt by inflexible rules that don’t account for their investment in water reliability programs, such as the desalination plant soon to open in Carlsbad. In other words, according to this logic, if we spend money to create more water supply, we should not be required to conserve.

It’s worth remembering the Carlsbad desalination project will meet only 7 percent of San Diego County’s water demand. If the drought continues into 2016, all of San Diego’s other water supplies will be further diminished, reinforcing the need for continued tough conservation.

Apple CEO Invests in Water-miser Showerhead

Apple Computer CEO Tim Cook is one of the backers of Nebia, a new water-saving showerhead that is claimed to use only 0.75 gallons per minute. That’s well below the EPA WaterSense standard of 2 gpm, and half the rate of the High Sierra Showerhead we recently profiled.

According to Fortune, Cook is a first investor in the Nebia showerhead, which achieves its alleged water savings by “atomizing” the water into tiny droplets that cover 10 times more surface area than a regular showerhead. Another first investor is the Schmidt Family Foundation, part of the empire of Eric Schmidt, the former Google chairman.

Nebia plans to ship out its first orders in spring 2016 via a Kickstarter campaign. A contribution of $299 gets you one showerhead. The campaign as of Wednesday morning had raised almost $1 million, surpassing its initial goal 10-fold.

This is clearly another extension of Silicon Valley’s desire to make money by revolutionizing the home — as in the Nest thermostat and smoke alarm and various smartphone products that allow remote tweaking of lights, locks and alarms. Which is all fine for people who are able and willing to pay $299 for a showerhead. But the big water savings are in agriculture, and it seems Silicon Valley isn’t putting a lot of energy there.

Gizmodo puts it more pointedly: “California’s megadrought is a big probem … one that will take more than rich people marketing expensive bathroom gadgets to solve. You have to wonder if the rich people buying and funding the Nebia showerheads aren’t just doing this so they can feel a little bit better about themselves when they water their lush lawns in Los Gatos or go golfing in Palm Springs.”

Drought Dries up Orange County’s Only Natural Lake

On Monday we discussed how the drought has dried up the Guadalupe River in San Jose. While it was not the first or the only river to stop flowing, its location in the nominal capital of Silicon Valley drew a lot of attention to the drought.

Now the only natural lake in Orange County has shriveled into mud and dust. The 12-acre Barbara’s Lake is a popular hiking destination and usually home to many fish as well as frogs, turtles, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and raccoons. Now it’s been reduced to just a few puddles.

A local water district offered to refill the lake with treated water, but park rangers declined, because treated water would harm wildlife.

“Hopefully in the next couple months we’re all going to be remembering these days as past history,” Orange County park ranger Barbara Norton told ABC7 News.

Top image: California. Gov. Jerry Brown file photo. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

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