Newsletter: California water board to growers: Stop pumping

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

Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting -- or at least stealing. Water thefts are on the rise in California. In Sacramento, two men tried to steal water from fire hydrants. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the owners of a nudist resort are accused of stealing water from a neighbor. Presumably the water was not for laundry.


Mandatory conservation: It’s a move that underscores the seriousness of the California drought — the State Water Resources Control Board told more than 100 growers and irrigation districts that they must stop pumping water. These are Californians with water rights pre-dating 1914. “The fact that the state is reaching back more than a century in the hierarchy of California water rights highlights the withering hold of a drought that has also led to the state's first mandatory cuts in urban use.”

Rain on the way: Scientists believe Californians should be preparing for a wet winter. It is increasing likely that a strong El Niño will soak the state, bringing back memories of El Niños in 1982-83 and 1997-98. It could be enough rain to end the drought. But even if the system weakens, experts say residents should prepare for major flooding caused by atmospheric rivers. “Look at it this way: We’re just between floods,” said Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center.

Mapping farmlands: This interactive map from National Geographic shows how manipulating the flow of water allowed the Central Valley to become America’s leader in agriculture.

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Water hogs: Not all Californians are equal when it comes to water use. That’s the feeling in one wealthy San Diego County community that uses five times more water per capita than the state average. Rancho Santa Fe homeowners balk at the suggestion that their lawns should go brown until the drought is over. “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna,” one resident told the Washington Post. But that community is an outlier. Residents in other tony suburbs, such as Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, have reduced their water use, according to state data.

New water park: It sounds like the beginning of a joke — a California city is building a water park in the middle of a drought. But that is what’s happening in Dublin, and L.A. Times columnist Robin Abcarian writes we should “let it slide.” “Dublin has done more to save water than most other cities. It deserves a break,” she writes.


“The metaphor is spaceship Earth. In a spaceship, you reuse everything. Well, we’re in space and we have to find a way to reuse, and with enough science and enough funding, we’ll get it done.”

— Gov. Jerry Brown, making the case for water conservation at the Los Angeles Times’ California Conversation

 “In a typical year, we spend about a million and a half on PR. This year, it's $5.5 million. We had a [TV character] in the shape of California looking sad and depressed as people were wasting water.”

Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, on water-saving messaging


Taking the field: Sports and leisure aren’t immune from the drought. Baseball stadiums are grappling with how to maintain a pristine field. One answer: use less water to clean those sticky stadium seats.

Wine tasting: How is this for a silver lining? The drought could make California wines taste even better. The lack of rain intensifies the sugars in the grapes, ultimately producing what could be considered a more flavorful wine. One downside is that smaller crops may translate into a more expensive bottle of wine, reports 89.3 KPCC.

Getting creative: The Bacara Resort & Spa north of Santa Barbara got creative when it was forced to shut off its fountains. The high-end resort partnered with local artists to reimagine the water-less features.

Food supply: Rice is the latest victim of the California drought, and that’s impacting humans and birds alike. The state Rice Commission expects a 30% drop in rice production this year. After rice is harvested for people, the fields are flooded, providing food to 7 million ducks and geese.


Arthur Flores, a tree surgeon supervisor, checks out redwood and oak trees that are under drought-related stress in Griffith Park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)


In South Los Angeles, Doris Tillman’s misfortune turned her into an accidental authority on conservation. When she lost her job and fell behind on her payments to the Department of Water and Power, utility officials cut off her water. She then learned to survive on 50 gallons a week. Here are some of her water-saving tips:

-- After boiling an egg, add bleach and soap to the water and make your own cleaning agent.

-- Use a dish pan instead of filling the sink, and pre-clean dishes and cookware with towels so food particles don't dirty the pan. Then use the water again in the garden.

-- If you make pasta or boil potatoes, reuse the water for steaming vegetables, and then reuse it again for watering plants.

Plus, the Los Angeles Times Home section’s 43 water saving tips that don’t require you to rip out your lawn.


— The State Water Resources Board will meet at 9 a.m. today to consider water restrictions along the Russian River.  

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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