Water crisis hits California as governor declares a drought
LOS ANGELES — California is nearly as dry as it's ever been. High water marks rim half-full reservoirs. Cities are rationing water. Clerics are praying for rain. Ranchers are selling cattle, and farmers are fallowing fields.
Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed a drought on Friday, saying California is in the midst of perhaps its worst dry spell in a century. He made the announcement in San Francisco amid increasing pressure from lawmakers and as firefighters battled flare-ups in a Southern California wildfire that chased thousands of people from their homes.
Unless the state gets significant rainfall in the next two months, television sets glowing with wildfires could play like reruns throughout the year.
Previous super-dry years led to catastrophic wildfire seasons in California in 2003 and 2007, said Tom Scott, a natural resources specialist with the University of California system. Fire crews beat back a wildfire southeast of Los Angeles this week, but it was a stark reminder of the dry and dangerous conditions.
“People say that the fire season is starting early, but I guess you could say it never ended,” Scott said. “If you live in the backcountry, come July you probably should be thinking about putting your valuables in storage.”
Droughts also are persisting or intensifying elsewhere in the country.
On Wednesday, federal officials said they were designating portions of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain facing farmers in those regions.
And despite heavy flooding in Colorado in September, large portions of Colorado and Wyoming are abnormally dry, while ranchers on the plains of southeastern Colorado have severe drought conditions.
Farmers and ranchers in California, the nation's No. 1 farm state, are making hard choices to conserve water. Some cities are in danger of running out. And the first snow survey of the winter found more bare ground than fluffy flakes — a key barometer of future supply.
“I am a fifth-generation cattle rancher, and it has never been this bad ever in my lifetime — and from my family's history, it's never been anywhere close to this bad ever,” said Kevin Kester, 58. He said his family's records show the area's worst drought previously was in the 1890s.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sprint cancels Framily, rolls out new data pricing plan
- Shared offices provide advantages for startups, nonprofits, others
- Cash stash bolsters U.S. Steel
- Sales, profit fall at retailer American Eagle Outfitters
- Gas production from Marcellus shale sets record despite fewer new wells going online
- Designer sues Barnes & Noble over backpack profits
- HTC to construct Windows version of flagship phone
- Milk producer to ax disputed ingredient
- Kennametal’s CEO to retire at yearend
- Shell acquires Pa. shale gas rights as part of a $2.1B deal
- PUC appeals ruling that curbed its power to review municipalities’ drilling rules