Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 5:44 pm
The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm.
The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.
Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 9:43 am
Imagine flushing the toilet and watching sand come up. That's what happened to Pam Vieira, who lives south of Modesto, Calif. Her water well has slowed to a trickle, and you can see the sand in the tank of her toilet.
"Sometimes we have brown water," Vieira says. "Sometimes we have no water."
Vieira is one of as many as 2 million rural California residents who rely on private domestic wells for drinking water.
Some of those people are among the hardest hit by the state's severe drought, as wells across the state's Central Valley farm belt start to go dry.
Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 6:20 am
California's historic drought is partly to blame for the recent rise in West Nile virus infections, public health officials say. There have been 311 cases reported so far, double the number of the same time last year, and the most of any state in the country.
West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes. They contract the virus when they feed on infected birds, then spread it to the birds they bite next. A shortage of water can accelerate this cycle.
Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 9:40 am
Much of the American West is suffering from extreme drought this year. California is running out of water and wildfires have raged through Washington, Oregon and Idaho. But there is a bright spot out West â€” or, rather, a green spot. In New Mexico, unusually heavy late-summer rains have transformed the landscape.
It's a remarkable sight. The high desert is normally the color of baked pie crust; now, it's emerald.
Kirt Kempter, a geologist who lives in Santa Fe, says this transformation is far from ordinary.
The drought-stricken Colorado River Basin is drying up faster than was thought, according to a recent study.Â
NASA and the University of California, Irvine used satellite data gathered over a nine year period to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin that has been experiencing severe drought since 2000. Â Â Â
The scientists looked at monthly measurements between December 2004 and November 2013. They found the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, that's nearly double the volume of Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, during that period. The study said about 41 million acre feet of that lost water was groundwater. Â
The basin provides water to millions of people in seven Western states: Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.Â It also supplies water to roughly four million acres of farmland.Â
Last week the Almanac saw a lot of talk about mushrooms â€“ Steve Smith said they seem to be popping up in larger numbers than usual â€“ Marilyn Stone wondered what factors affect mushroom numbers â€“ and Amber Kleinman asked whether itâ€™s possible to grow puffballs in a yard.Â
In early July, Colorado designated 14 counties "primary natural disaster areas" due to agricultural losses caused by the recent and ongoing drought. Â Several of those counties are in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. Â Farmers there are now eligible for low interest emergency loans, but as KGNUâ€™s Maeve Conran reports, that may not be enough for this agricultural hub, which is facing a long term water crisis that could permanently affect the entire valley. Â