drought

NOAA

The rain finally returned before the end of September, but it will take a lot more of it to reverse the region's drought. 

All of Oregon west of the Cascades is in either moderate or severe drought, and our part of California is not much better. 

So what do we do when it's been this dry for this long, and what are the prospects for catching up on precipitation?  We put those questions to Eric Dittmer, geologist, professor, and former water resource planner for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, and to Ryan Sandler from the National Weather Service in Medford. 

NOAA

California has seen some of the worst wildfires in its history this year. The explosive nature of the fires is due in part to serious long-term droughts in the state.

A new report from The Public Policy Institute of California analyzes the state's ongoing problems with drought and proposes strategies for managing  California's water supply in the future.

Picture of a drought affected landscape
CSIRO

There is much that is wonderful about living in the West.  Lack of humidity, for example. 

But that's an indicator of a basic fact of life: there's not much precipitation in this part of the country, at least south of Eugene, and so not much water for all the people and nature. 

Marc Reisner covered the topic in  great depth in his monumental work Cadillac Desert, first published in 1986.  He covered the history: dams and diversions, rivers and reclamation, and the underlying issue: too much demand for too little water. 

Drought has only made the book truer over time.  Lawrie Mott, Reisner's widow, is a scientist and the writer of additional material for later editions of the book. 

Picture of a drought affected landscape
CSIRO

It takes more than one wet year to recover from a severe drought. What if the next drought arrives soon after?

A new study published August 10 in Nature seeks to understand the ways in which ecosystems across the world recover from drought. It finds that, if a new drought arrives before the ecosystem has recovered from a previous drought, the entire ecosystem may change for good.

William Anderegg,  Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, is one of the study's authors and joins us to discuss his findings. It's far from a dry subject.

US Geological Survey

Gaze across the mountains of the Northwest these days and you may notice an unusual number of dead firs, pines and other conifer trees scattered among the green ones. Drought is usually considered the prime culprit. But recent research suggests the damage that has historically been done to conifer forests by routine dry spells is being compounded by climate change.

Native Flowers And Plants Getting Scarce

Jun 29, 2016
Wikimedia

There's no place like home, but home is looking different over time. 

Oregon and California are both home to unique flora and fauna, and the flora is displaying notable changes. 

Susan Harrison from the University of California-Davis studies plant diversity, and she notices less of that diversity as drought and climate change take root in the region. 

NOAA

If you're looking for rainfall comparisons between this year and last year, try this one: Redding got 15 more inches rain of since October 1st than in the previous year.  FIFTEEN inches. 

But many a meteorologist points out that the El Niño rains were not evenly distributed: much of Southern California is still experiencing drought conditions. 

Even so, some drought restrictions are being lifted.  The Bay Institute takes major exception to actions by the state Water Resources Control Board and other entities. 

NW California Sees Drought Improvement

Jun 2, 2016
Wikimedia

The extreme northwest portion of the state, just north of San Francisco to Crescent City and east along the Oregon border, accounts for the portion of California where there is no drought.

California's Water Supply At Risk From Warmer Winters

Feb 15, 2016
Olivia Allen-Price/KQED

Any sign of precipitation in the forecast is a welcome sight for Californians these days. But with temperatures expected to be above normal this winter, California’s snowpack may not reach the heights it could.

Wikimedia

We expect water to come out of the faucet when we turn the handle. 

But the task of providing water gets harder in a drought, and our region has been living with drought conditions for several years. 

A national awareness campaign called "Imagine a Day Without Water" brings together a number of water agencies and interested groups to press the case for wise use and conservation this week (October 6-8). 

Amy Quinton/CPB

California’s drought is having a devastating effect on its forests. Aerial surveys around the state show more than 20 million dead trees so far. And the drought has a partner in crime – the pine beetle. If this deadly combination continues, it could drastically change California’s forested landscape. 

Penguin Books

The California drought garners lots of headlines, but it's not the only place in the country concerned about water supplies.

Kansas and the states around it sit atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a critically important water source. 

And Julene Bair's ancestral family farm drew water from the aquifer, by the hundreds of millions of gallons every year. 

Her story of returning to the land and coming to grips with her life and its impact is told in her book The Ogallala Road. 

Water Woes Rise In The Heart Of Summer

Jul 21, 2015
Wikimedia

We're not even halfway through the summer, and drought concerns are rising, even in normally well-watered parts of Oregon.

Junction City recently had to declare a "moderate" water emergency and restrict water uses. 

EWEB in Eugene is keeping an eye on low river flows caused by the lack of snowpack. 

And Ashland is poised to increase warnings about water use, if its major reservoir drops below a certain level. 

VENTSday: Drought Shaming + Voting Rights

Jul 15, 2015

Social media and the drought are combining for a new phenomenon in California: drought shaming.

Water your lawn too much, and you could end up on Facebook, singled out for scorn. 

Tell us what you think of the process in VENTSday. 

You can also comment on voter registration, and whether it should be open to any adult. 

Stormwater Capture: California's Untapped Supply

Jul 9, 2015
Curtis Jerome Haynes

When it rains in California, millions of gallons of water runs down city streets, into storm drains and out to the Pacific Ocean. But with the state in its fourth year of drought, it can’t afford to waste that resource. Some cities are capturing that rain by soaking it up like a sponge. Could this be California’s next big “untapped” water supply?

Lawns will die and crops will wither in the fields, but California's economy may not suffer as much from drought as you might think.

California Department of Water Resources

Snow surveys are supposed to find snow.  But in the mild winter we had, little precipitation fell as snow. 

Most of the later-in-the-season surveys turned up dirt. 

California's snow surveys came out even worse than Oregon's. 

Pumping Groundwater In Klamath Drought

Apr 28, 2015
Wikimedia

The upper Klamath Basin figures to suffer through another drought this year. 

And when the skies don't deliver, groundwater is called upon to make up the difference. 

The Klamath Water and Power Authority pays irrigators to pump groundwater through its Water Use Mitigation Program. 

But the amount KWAPA is prepared to pay for is more than twice what the Oregon water agency recommends. 

Saving Water Without Losing The Lawn

Apr 9, 2015
Wikimedia

Drought puts pressure on water users to find ways to use less water.

And in suburban environments, that quickly turns our attention to lawns: green and pleasant, but water-intensive.

Short of ripping out the lawn, there are grasses that require less watering.

The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance teamed up with the City of Ashland on demonstration projects.

Wikimedia

It surprised absolutely no one when California leaders announced drought emergency measures this week. 

Precipitation has been paltry for several years now, and the winter snowpack that would normally feed streams through the summer is virtually nonexistent. 

Groups focused on the environment, including Earthjustice, raise some issues with the official approach to drought. 

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