News from the Front Lines of the California Drought Struggle: July 2015

California drought: State’s water restrictions face court tests

The Christian Science Monitor | Kevin Truong

Four lawsuits over restrictions for “senior” water users in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds, as well as a lawsuit by the city of Riverside, challenge state control over local water rights amid the California drought.

Four years into a record-breaking drought, California is suddenly awash in lawsuits challenging the state’s water-saving directives, especially the 25 percent mandatory statewide cutbacks ordered by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Less than a month after those mandatory restrictions went into effect, one city about 50 miles east of Los Angeles is the first municipality to challenge state control over local water rights in the courts.

Riverside is suing the state, claiming that the new restrictions unfairly affect the community. Under the new regulations, Riverside can face fines of up to $10,000 a day if it doesn’t cut water use over the next nine months by 24 percent, compared with levels in 2013, reported public radio station KPCC.

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California residents cut water use by hefty 29% in May, officials say

L.A. Times | Monte Morin & Matt Stevens

Drought-weary California received encouraging news Wednesday when officials announced that residential water use had dropped 29% during the month of May — the first real indication that the state might meet unprecedented conservation reductions imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The cut in water usage suggests the aggressive campaign to get residents to change their lifestyle — by taking shorter showers, replacing grass with drought-tolerant landscaping and buying water-efficient appliances — is taking hold.

“My first response is almost disbelief,” said Mark Gold of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “These results are beyond encouraging; they’re heartening. They make you realize that as a whole, people in urban areas are making the sacrifices necessary to get through this unprecedented drought.”

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California Farmers Dig Deeper for Water, Sipping Their Neighbors Dry

The New York Times | Matt Richtel

Early one morning in late April, Parvinder Hundal stood beside a hole in the ground at the edge of his almond farm near Tulare in the Central Valley of California. The hole, which was about the size of a volleyball and was encased in a shallow block of concrete, was the opening of a well, one that went hundreds of feet into the earth. He had paid $100,000 to have it drilled, but it wasn’t producing water. Mr. Hundal was hoping that if he cleaned out the well, the water would start flowing again.

On the nearby trees, some leaves had turned yellow and the almond husks appeared smaller than usual. In February, Mr. Hundal received emails from various water districts, informing him that, because of a historic drought that has left reservoirs nearly dry, he would most likely get no surface water to irrigate his 4,000 acres of crops this summer. Not one drop.

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