Welcome to Water and Power

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

In the words of Chipotle, guacamole is an extra charge, and that's particularly true in this drought. It takes about 72 gallons of water to produce 8 ounces of avocados in California. So swap out the guac for some pico de gallo -- tomatoes are a lot less thirsty.


California’s future: California’s epic drought has cast some doubt on the state’s future, but along the Santa Ana River in Orange County water officials have put aside their interests and are working together on some innovative steps to better manage the water supply during dry times. Los Angeles Times

Reimagining the course: Even legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus has to confront the California drought. His design firm is working on the course at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, and plans include ripping out turf and adding native plants. "Water is a big issue right now. You have to be aware of what you're doing," he said. Water use at athletic fields all over the Southland is being adjusted. Los Angeles Times

A word from the governor: Even as we enter the fourth year of the drought, modern-day Californians still have it pretty good. That's what Jerry Brown likes to think when he's looking for inspiration. "I think it is very good to channel our forebears, who had a much tougher life with a lot less reward, a lot less little pleasures," the governor said. Los Angeles Times

Big stakes, behind closed doors: Federal water legislation working its way through Congress has been shrouded in secrecy. Key leaders including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Kevin McCarthy are talking, but critics say that the details are blocked by a "code of silence." "We've met with people. We've talked with people," Feinstein said cryptically. "We’ve taken ideas. We have done everything we can." Fresno Bee

Saving drinkable water for drinking: Lake Mission Viejo will soon have new water. For the first time since the 1970s, the lake will be filled with treated water rather than drinkable water. That will save enough to provide 700 families with water for a year. Los Angeles Times


A future for guacamole: Avocado farmers are finding that density may be the key to keeping their crop profitable. By planting his trees closer together and pruning them to remain short and fat, one farmer in San Diego County has nearly doubled his yield without using any more water. "When you got avocados in your blood it's hard to get rid of them sometimes," he said. Capital Public Radio

Losing an icon: The Joshua tree is the symbol of California deserts, but the ongoing drought is hastening its decline. Now, one ecologist from UC Riverside is studying the effect climate change is having on the tree and the species they cover. Los Angeles Times

Pretty as a peach? That phrase could be outdated before too long. Farmer David Masumoto says that his fellow growers may soon stop devoting so much water to growing large, beautiful peaches, strawberries or grapes. His point: Ugly fruit can be just as delicious. Los Angeles Times

Behold the spray-on lawn: It's a cliche to say Angelenos are superficial, but in this case it's really true. Homeowners are painting their dying lawns green to keep up appearances. One woman likened it to getting made up for the day: "The front lawn -- it's your face to your neighbors and people driving down the street." It's a different situation up north, where San Francisco appears to be embracing the au naturel look. Wall Street Journal

Brown is the new green: Reporters have found many examples of politicians breaking the conservation rules they've set for constituents, but in Fresno it appears that Mayor Ashley Swearengin and most members of the City Council are taking the cutbacks to heart. Their lawns have gone brown, and some are collecting bath and dish water for use in their gardens. Fresno Bee


Rethinking reservoirs: "The reservoirs we built in California over the 20th century were designed for a climate with extensive snowpack and frequent wet periods. We know that this drought is a bellwether of future conditions. This year's record-low snowpack is projected to be close to normal by the end of the century."

-- Juliet Christian-Smith, a climate scientist with the California office of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Los Angeles Times

This drought's not so bad: "The truth is that the water future of the American West probably lies somewhere between the dire despondency of Cassandra and the nonchalance of Pollyanna. How do we know? A look at California's centuries-long experience with drought and aridity, agriculture and irrigation can give us some coherence on that middle ground -- not necessarily by way of templates for action but by offering perspective and context."

-- William Deverell, chairman of the history department at USC. Politico


Time for truth squads: People who are all high and mighty about shaming celebrities over their water use are usually doing it wrong. Whether it's calling out the wrong mansion or incorrectly assuming that owners of green lawns aren't conserving within their homes, shamers need to check the facts before airing their grievances. Gizmodo

Lessons from the past: Researchers have found a correlation between the collapse of the Maya empire and a 200-year drought. Their work shows that the northern region that typically received less rainfall, similar to contemporary L.A., was able to rebound from the drought, whereas the southern region, which worried less about water (kind of like San Francisco), was destroyed. Grist


Houseboats are moored on a shrinking arm of the Oroville Lake reservoir. (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)


Turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth and you'll save 2.5 gallons a minute, according to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Also, don't forget to floss.


-- Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Times Publisher Austin Beutner will discuss the California drought on Tuesday. Do you have a question about water for Gov. Brown? Please submit questions here.

-- The U.S. Drought Monitor will release its weekly report Thursday morning.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.