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Parts of Central California have been hit especially hard by the drought, and specifically the dropping water table beneath the ground. But as California farms and cities lean more and more on their aquifers, many are concerned that more and more wells will go dry.

This is not a new story. Huge portions of the San Joaquin Valley have actually dropped due to massive pumping of water from the ground dating back to the 1920’s. The question is – when will the taps run dry.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on the latest development for the drought-stricken town of East Porterville: they now have showers.  Also on the program Bakersfield Californian’s Lois Henry and UC Irvine’s James Famiglietti discuss groundwater and the future of the state.

Water Levels In California's Reservoirs Continue To Drop

Nov 12, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The water in some of California’s major reservoirs is nearing historic lows. The Department of Water Resources says statewide, all reservoirs are currently holding about 57 percent of their historic norms.

But levels are dropping significantly in some of the major reservoirs. Maury Roos, is the Chief Hydrologist with DWR. He says the Lake Oroville Reservoir is near the lowest level it’s ever been.

Ezra David Romero

This week on Valley Edition we are joined by Fresno State Geography Lecturer and Reedley College Professor Sean Boyd for a conversation about the rain the region received last week and what Valley residents should expect weather-wise in the months to come.

California's severe drought is putting stress on everyone these days: the residents whose wells are running dry; the farmers forced to experiment with growing their produce with much less water; and of course, the thirsty fruits and vegetables themselves.

The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm.

The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.

California Tomato Growers Expect Record Year Despite Drought

Oct 21, 2014
California Tomato Growers Association

The drought has California farmers leaving thousands of acres fallow this year. But growers still chose to plant processing tomatoes. And as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, they’re expected to have a record year.

About 95 percent of the nation’s processed tomatoes come from California. Last year, about 12 million tons were produced. Some farmers this year were skeptical they could grow the 14 million tons contracted for by the state’s processors.

But Mike Montna with the California Tomato Growers Association says they hit that mark.

NASA Spacecraft Will Help California Address Drought and Floods

Oct 20, 2014
NASA / JPL-Caltech

Scientists may soon have a more accurate way to predict the extent and severity of droughts, floods and even the amount of food California can produce. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a NASA spacecraft getting set to launch will measure soil moisture, one of the most important components of the earth’s water cycle.

California Drought To Persist, Even Worsen

Oct 16, 2014
National Weather Service - Hanford

Predictions suggest the California drought is likely to persist, and even worsen in some areas. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says complete drought recovery is "unlikely this winter' in California.

Kevin Werner is NOAA's Western Region Climate Director.

He says the 2012-to-2014 period is the driest on record in California.

And low reservoir storage reflects that.

Voters To Decide Fate of $7.5 Billion Water Bond

Oct 7, 2014
US Bureau of Reclamation

On November 4th, California voters will decide the fate of a $7.5 billion bond intended to improve the state’s water system. Proposition 1 is one of the most closely watched measures on the ballot. Proponents of the bond say it would provide safe and reliable water, opponents say it wrongly focuses on building more dams. And as Capital Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, the bond has divided some environmental groups.

NASA GRACE

A new set of satellite images released by NASA shows the dramatic loss of water storage in the Central Valley due to California's long term drought. According to research by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Team, the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins together lost 12 million acre feet a year between 2011 and 2014, largely due to agricultural groundwater pumping.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This story is part of a Valley Public Radio original series on how the health of rivers impact the health of communities produced as a project for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In  this week's program we’ll talk about a water shortage that has left a whole Valley community waterless. FM89 reporter Diana Aguilera tells the story of Measure Z and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

Brown Orders More Action On Drought

Sep 19, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California's ongoing drought is prompting Governor Jerry Brown to take new executive action.

Friday, Brown ordered that money be made available to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households without running water.

He also extended the prohibition on price-gouging during emergencies to apply to the drought.

Finally, Brown is requiring state agencies to identify acute water shortages and work with counties and local agencies to address them.

Brown Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation

Sep 16, 2014
Office of Governor Jerry Brown

It’s going to become more difficult to drill a well in California. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on a package of groundwater legislation signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

The regulations will require local agencies to create and implement groundwater management plans within five years and meet groundwater sustainability levels within 20 years. Brown says the laws, combined with the Legislature's bi-partisan approval of a water bond slated for the November ballot, represent a giant step forward toward securing the state’s water supply.

California Department of Water Resources

California Governor Jerry Brown made history Tuesday morning when he signed into law three bills that for the first time will regulate groundwater in the state. California had been the only state in the nation that did not regulate groundwater at the state level.

While many environmental groups praised the move, a number of valley agriculture interests opposed the new regulations. This week on Valley Edition, we talked to Joel Nelson of the Exeter-based group California Citrus Mutual about his concerns about the new laws. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio.

With fires raging in the region and no sign that the drought will ease up, farmers and even homeowners are on the hunt for water. The initial answer is to dig a new well. But wells are expensive. In this piece FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on a solution that many Valley homeowners rely on.

Eugene Keeney hooks his 2,500 gallon water truck to a fire hydrant on the northern edge of Clovis. 

cawaterchallenge.org

In California, water availability is becoming a serious problem—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t creative solutions.

Developers at a San Francisco non-profit have created the California Water Challenge, an interactive website that aims to teach players about the state’s water problems while prompting them to make difficult decisions about how to solve them.

Noel Perry is the founder of Next 10, the company that created the tool.

New Field Poll Shows Strong Support For Water Bond

Sep 10, 2014
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A Field Poll released today  shows strong support for the water bond on California’s November ballot.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they’ll support the $7.5 billion bond in the fall election. 27 percent oppose it, while 21 percent remain undecided. But awareness of the measure remains low. The Field Poll found just 36 percent of likely voters had seen or heard anything about the bond. But support for the bond was even higher among voters with prior knowledge of the measure.

Forecasters Say Chances Are El Niño Won't End California's Drought

Sep 4, 2014
National Weather Service - Hanford

Forecasters say the chances are diminishing that El Niño will bring rain to California. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center analysis shows a 60-to-65 percent chance of the warm ocean condition known as El Niño developing this fall and winter. The report also indicates a strong El Niño is not expected and a weak event is likely.

Michelle Mead is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

She says a weak El Niño won't end the California drought. 

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