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Executive Summary for August 24th

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. 24, 2015 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

California Hosts Climate Change Symposium

The state of California, together with key members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hosts a symposium on climate change in Sacramento starting today and continuing on Tuesday, August 25.

The event has a signficant focus on water resources. The overall goal is to share research and perspectives to help Californians cope with changes that will include higher temperatures and droughts of unpredictable length.

Concurrent with the symposium, the California Department of Water Resources released a comprehensive report on adapting to climate change, prepared by a team of consulting scientists.

The public can participate in the two-day symposium via a free webcast or by audio link over phone lines.

Los Angeles Bets Big on Stormwater Capture

Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, recently completed a massive plan to capture stormwater runoff, one of the most ambitious such efforts ever conceived.

The goal, according to Circle of Blue, is to recognize at last that L.A. is a city in the desert, and can no longer afford to let rain course through to the ocean as fast as possible without making use of it first. The plan could lead to the collection and use of as much as 200,000 acre-feet of stormwater per year, equal to about one-third of L.A.’s total annual water needs.

“We’ve got to prepare for a water-resilient Los Angeles,” said Debora Weinstein Bloome, policy director at the environmental group TreePeople. “Part of that is getting every Angeleno to be their own watershed manager on their own property.”

A unique feature of the plan is that it emphasizes stormwater solutions at every scale. The plan includes three large projects in the San Fernando Valley to collect rain in basins or washes and slowly feed it to the city’s primary underground water source — a process known as aquifer recharge. It also lists a variety of smaller features on public, private and commercial properties throughout the city, and incentives for homeowners to install large cisterns, or create so-called rain gardens and swales to help direct stormwater to capture basins.

The total plan could cost as much as $220 million and produce water at a cost of $600 to $1,100 per acre-foot. That’s generally less than Los Angeles pays now for water imported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, more than 400 miles away.

Drought May Worsen Asthma in Some Communities

California’s San Joaquin Valley, which already has some of the worst air quality in the nation, could be getting worse because of the drought.

That’s because water shortages are making it harder to control dust churned up on dirt roads serving the vast farming region. Regional air-quality officials require farmers to control dust to minimize particulate pollution. Most do so by spraying dirt roads with water from tanker trucks.

Officials are encouraging farmers to use nonpotable water, if possible. But they are also granting exemptions to some farms that may not be near population centers, KQED News reports.

“When we see any relaxation in the rules, we get very nervous,” says Kevin Hamilton, with the Central California Asthma Collaborative. “At this moment, it feels like we’re going to go backward again.”

Photo courtesy by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

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