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Water and Power: Whatever happened to El Niño?

Your guide to the California drought from the Los Angeles Times.

NEWS AND POLICY

Water sources: One state lawmaker wants to see California make desalination plants a priority. Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang introduced a bill last week that would set state goals for generating drinking water out of the ocean. “Desalination in itself is drought-proof. You have an existing water source,” she said.

Little rain: El Niño’s rains haven’t materialized yet in Southern California, and that’s left Ventura County with below-average rainfall for the year. Could the system be similar to the one that came through in 1983 and brought big rains in March and April? “Everybody had such high hopes for an El Niño year. [Now] everybody is wondering if this is going to be another bust this year,” said Peter Thielke, board president for Senior Canyon Mutual Water Co.

ON THE GROUND

Snow in the north: Skiers and water officials alike are enjoying the snow in Northern California. Squaw Valley has 26 feet of snow this winter — 40% more than all of last season. The true test, however, will come on April 1. “It's so good to see all the snow piled up around here. We're way ahead of last year, and it's only going to get better,” said Janet Tuttle, who runs Donner Ski Ranch.

Danger below: An avalanche in Alpine Meadows struck a bus and pushed it into a home. No one was injured in the crash. The avalanche ultimately brought two feet of snow to the region.

OFFBEAT

That’s nuts: Pistachios helped California’s farmers pay for new wells that kept them afloat during the drought. But now, some are worried that nut sales could take a hit as sanctions are lifted in Iran. Persian pistachios were king through the 1980s. “Once Americans are reintroduced to Iran's supposedly bigger, ‘nuttier’ version, some aficionados may not come back to the homegrown product, which one connoisseur compared to ‘cardboard.’”

Blanket of flowers: Death Valley could experience a once-in-a-decade “super bloom” of wildflowers thanks to El Niño. “You always get flowers somewhere in Death Valley almost every month of the year, but to have a big bloom like this, which we hope will become a super bloom — which is beyond all your expectations — those are quite rare,” said Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg.

BIG IDEAS

“The Bensley Co. is gone, but both its old reservoirs on Russian Hill still exist and the Lombard Street reservoir is functional, providing water to nearby neighborhoods — a little-known link with San Francisco’s first water company.”

A brief history of San Francisco’s water sources

DROUGHT SNAPSHOT

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