Photo courtesy Hunter Ten Broeck

This week on Cultivating Place, we talk land and water with Hunter Ten Broeck of WaterWise Landscapes Inc. in Albuquerque, NM. No matter where we live, or how differently our land and our water supplies and sources may look, our gardens and our nature love are wholly interdependent with these two much larger elemental forces.

Marc Albert


According to the old saw, in California, whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting. 


And the fighting never seems to stop. 


Last night, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation held the final of three mandatory meetings to collect public comment on a new initiative announced in the fall: maximizing the amount of water delivered to San Joaquin Valley agriculture and cities farther south, maximizing electricity generated by hydropower at California’s dams and re-evaluating protections and consideration for creatures deemed threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 


From the looks of the “bathtub ring” around Lake Oroville, the vise of drought is quickly tightening around California’s neck. Fortunately, those looks are quite deceiving.

If you’ve had a gander recently at the largest state-owned reservoir in California, you’d might have a feeling of deja vu. It’s looking much like it did during the depths of the state’s recent drought.

With reservoirs filling from a series of prodigious early season storms, state water officials had an announcement Wednesday that should be music to the ears of many California growers. Officials with the California Department of Water Resources more than doubled their water allocation estimates for the coming year, from 20 to 45 percent. The figure will almost certainly be adjusted again as the rainy season progresses and officials get a better idea of how much water they’ll have to distribute.

Scott Denny / http://bit.ly/1WCKTfR

Water conservation in California has dropped after regulators lifted mandatory restrictions.

The statewide conservation rate in August was just under 18 percent, raising concerns that water agencies have abandoned their focus on conservation during the drought. Last year, Californians cut water use by 27 percent in August.

The State Water Resources Control Board says a return to mandatory cutbacks may be necessary next year.

Marc Albert

In arid California, seasonal drought is a way of life. Water is both scarce and in high demand. People are told to conserve. Agriculture looks for efficiency through technique and technology. Officials slowly conjure money to expand reservoirs. Though closer to reality than ever, the long-awaited Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs are probably still decades away. Nevertheless, far more modest projects — ones that could be completed in a single morning — may have a strong supporting role in California’s water future.

Blue Dot 20: The Sierra Snowpack

Jul 7, 2016
Nicholas Turland, Creative Commons http://bit.ly/OJZNiI

This week on Blue Dot, we look at how we measure the amount of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.  We hear from Steve Margulis, a hydrology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Durand, a professor at Ohio State University. They both help give us the numbers that tell how much water (we think) is in the Sierra Snowpack, how much meltwater we'll have to use as a state, and how long it will take the snowpack to recover from drought.

California sits atop a massive reserve of water so large, it blows state estimates right out of the proverbial you-know-what.

In scientific findings published this week, Stanford University researchers estimated that official state forecasts of California’s groundwater reserves may be off by as much as a factor of three.

Some good news for farmers — at least ones drawing state water. The Department of Water Resources is boosting this year’s allocations for those supplied by the State Water Project.

Allocations were bumped up to 60 percent of contracted amounts. That’s up from an initial 10 percent projected in December. Officials noted that while Southern California received unexceptional amounts of rain, storms have nearly filled reservoirs in the North State.

As of Wednesday morning, Lake Oroville stood at 94 percent of capacity — 118 percent of its historical average.

Crystal Geyser vaulted a legal hurdle in Siskiyou County Court Thursday, though obstacles remain to firing up a contentious bottling plant.

A Siskiyou County judge ruled that local activists were a quarter century too late with their complaint, essentially dismissing their case. 

But activists with the group We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review (WATER), nevertheless claimed a partial victory. They said publicity of the case may have helped bring about their goal: an Environmental Impact Report. Roslyn McCoy serves as Treasurer for WATER.