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Executive Summary for October 13th

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

Published on Oct. 13, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New Poll: Drought Concern Growing

More than three-fourths of Californians now describe the drought as an “extremely serious” problem, up from 66 percent just four months ago, according to a new Field Poll.

That’s also significantly more than the percentage who responded way back in the last major California drought, in 1977. In March of that year, just 51 percent considered the drought “extremely serious”.

“This is the highest degree of concern about state water shortages that we’ve ever seen,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, told the Sacramento Bee.

The telephone poll was conducted statewide in late September and early October among 1,002 registered voters in English and Spanish.

Another telling result is that the percentages don’t vary much at all across different regions of the state. All Californians seem to view this drought with equal concern. The same held true when people were asked whether it’s important to continue conserving water into the fall and winter months: 81 percent agreed, and that didn’t vary much across regions.

In addition, a majority of those polled (58 percent) said the drought is directly affecting themselves and their families. A much greater share — 70 percent — responded this way in the state’s Central Valley region.

A majority of respondents said they felt residential and agricultural users were doing their part to help conserve water. But only 38 percent feel this way about business and industry.

The Ridiculous Ridge Is Gone

The high-pressure cell that has blocked storms from crossing over California for nearly the past four years is finally gone, according to National Weather Service officials.

Dubbed the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” by Stanford graduate student Daniel Swain, the ridge is believed to be unprecedented in its persistence. It is also thought to be the primary mechanism that has kept California so dry, although no one is certain why it has held on for so long.

“I think it’s going to be probably an exciting winter, especially for Southern California,” Nate Mantua, a research scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center, told Southern California Public Radio.

One lingering variable is that a large “blob” of unusually warm Pacific Ocean waters still lingers off the West Coast. It was created by the heating effect of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. Nobody knows how that large cell of warm water will affect storms passing over it on their way to California.

“Warmer ocean temperatures typically lead to fueling the atmosphere and kind of energizing those storms. So I don’t think it’s going to be a negative for us,” said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Hunting for California’s Biggest Water Consumers

Four Los Angeles City Council members want to order staff to find and punish the massive water users identified in a recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The center used public records to reveal that there are dozens of Californians consuming more than a million gallons of water a year. The 10 biggest known users were in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air.

The specific identities of these mega-users was not available, because an obscure provision in the state’s public-records law allows name and address information to be withheld from utility records.

In their motion, set for a public hearing on Wednesday, the council members plan to order severe financial penalties on these heavy water users, including termination of their water service, if necessary.

Additional resources are being used to find the water hogs. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez on Sunday described how he has recruited an impromptu “drought posse” to find and flush out the abusers. They’re even using drones to scour the Bel Air neighborhood in search of the lushest properties.

“We’re going to get you sooner or later, so why not make this easy on yourself?” Lopez wrote. “Drop the hose, drain the fountains and step out of the shadows.”

And on Monday, the Sacramento Bee published an editorial urging state lawmakers to repeal the privacy clause for water users.

“There should be no exemption to the Public Records Act because a person might be embarrassed,” the paper wrote. “If attention shames extreme water wasters in curtailing use, the public would benefit.”

Top image: Professional spa remover Juan Alexander empties a spa for permanent removal at a residence in which the owner considered it “a waste of water,” in Garden Grove, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. A new Field Poll shows that concern has grown about the drought among Californians, exceeding even the level of concern reported during the last major drought in 1977. (Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press)

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