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Water and Power: No more bath time for you

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

NEWS AND POLICY

Endangered species: California’s native fish are in danger of disappearing altogether as waters become too warm for eggs and younger populations. “I know there's pain in the ag sector. But it's temporary. If we lose salmon or delta smelt ... it will have permanent consequences,” said Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist with the Bay Institute.

Taking responsibility: Humans can’t help it if rain doesn't fall, but we’ve probably done other things to exacerbate the drought. A new study suggests that humans are 8% to 27% to blame for the drought. That means that without human involvement, California’s water situation would be that much better. “It’s time for Republicans, foot-dragging corporations and other deniers to wake up and take sensible action before it’s too late,” said Gov. Jerry Brown.

No energy: Thanks to the drought, this may be the first year Southern California Edison doesn’t get any power from its John S. Eastwood Power Station east of Fresno. Water typically flows down the Sierra Nevada slope to spin an electricity generator there, but now water levels are too low to make that happen. “The last three or four years are probably the worst I've seen in my life," according to Edison's production manager at Big Creek.

ON THE GROUND

Sinking feeling: The San Joaquin Valley is sinking. Farmlands have dropped 10 to 13 inches because of all the groundwater that is being pumped out. The shifts could have a serious effect on infrastructure. In Firebaugh, one bridge sank so much it’s nearly touching the water in the Delta Mendota Canal.

Green lawns: The largest cemetery in the county has fully transitioned to recycled water. That’s a big deal because Rose Hills Memorial Park was using 293 million gallons of potable water a year to keep the grass green. “Using drinking water for watering golf courses and cemeteries is a waste of resources,” said Bruce Lazenby, executive director of business development at Rose Hills.

Storm preparations: El Niño could dump massive amounts of rain on Southern California this winter. In preparation, Los Angeles County officials are looking at vulnerabilities in fire- and flood-prone regions. The El Niño system that came through in 1997-98 killed 17 people and caused $550 million in damage in California.

Water into wine: Californians could learn a thing or two from the wine industry when it comes to the drought. Vintners are embracing drip irrigation and using less water in the actual production of their wines. “Wine growing and making tend toward large-scale drip irrigation, dry farming, integrated pest management, innovative cover crop application and aggressive industrial conservation practices. These are legacies worth preserving and disseminating statewide,” proposes Todd Cort, a faculty member at the Yale School of Management and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

OFFBEAT

New playlist: The Metropolitan Water District has a new tactic to get Californians in and out of the shower. Officials set up a Pandora music stream with songs about rain that should get someone out of the shower in about five minutes. If that’s still too long, you could always try a “Navy shower” -- soap up without the water turned on.

Teachable moment: In Los Angeles, one set of parents is using the drought to teach their 3-year-old twin daughters about water and waste. Bath time is gone, replaced by strictly enforced five-minute showers. “But that’s one reason that the drought’s impact here, superficial as it may seem, is critical to teaching a life lesson: The way you live touches the world,” the author -- and the girls' mother -- said.

BIG IDEAS

“California’s cities and suburbs -- home to 95 percent of California’s population and an even higher share of economic activity -- have become considerably more resilient since the 1987-92 drought, despite the addition of more than eight million residents since that time."

--Report from the Public Policy Institute of California on how cities have improved conservation in recent years.

DROUGHT SNAPSHOT

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tosses a shade ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

DAILY TIP

It takes a lot of water to keep up with the American diet. National Geographic estimates it’s 1,000 gallons per person per day. To cut down on that:

-- Eat less meat and dairy.

-- Buy local meats and produce.

You might even reconsider your morning cup of joe. It takes 55 gallons of water to make one cup of coffee, with most of the water going toward the cultivation of coffee beans.

LOOKING AHEAD

Tuesday: The West Basin Municipal Water District and the city of Torrance will hold a Graywater Workshop at 6 p.m.

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.

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