Drought Conditions Still Persist in Some Areas of the State

After a series of super-soaker storms descended on much of California in January, the obvious question is: Is the state still in a drought?

The short answer is it depends on what part of the state you’re talking about.

Source: California Department of Water Resources

Source: California Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) estimates 60 percent of the state in Central and Southern California still faces “moderate” or “severe” drought conditions.

“Much of the state has not recovered from the severe drought conditions that have persisted for the past four years,” the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) stated in a news release. “Moreover, measurements by the Department of Water Resources indicate that the statewide snowpack is about 70 percent of average for early January.”

Northern California reservoir storage is healthy, while watersheds to the south still lag behind. Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville are at 82 and 81 percent of capacity, respectively, while Terminus and Isabella reservoirs in the southland are at just 31 and 35 percent of capacity, respectively.

On January 3, the Department of Water Resources’ first snow survey of the season in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where the snowpack makes up about one-third of California’s water supply, totaled just 70 percent of the historic average for that date. However, that figure should rise sharply when the next survey is conducted after a series of storms dumped several feet of the white stuff in the ensuing two weeks.

Facing unprecedented drought conditions statewide, in 2015, SWRCB ordered 400 urban water districts to cut usage by an average of 25 percent compared to 2013. With conditions improving significantly in many regions, SWRCB backed off those restrictions in May, allowing many water districts to set conservation targets based on projected shortages.

After a water-logged January, the SWRCB is debating whether to lift all drought regulations as much of the state receives above-average precipitation for the first time in years. The Board is likely to vote February 7 on lifting the eased restrictions.

Find out more about the drought and water conservation at www.saveourwater.com.

It’s Remodeling Season: What You Need to Know Going In

shutterstock_70184671Warm weather makes newly painted walls dry faster, projects less likely to be rain-delayed and spawns desire for that outdoor kitchen. But before you put big bucks towards a better abode, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds you to do your due diligence before hiring any contractor to perform work in or on your home.

While most contractors are honest, hard-working professionals, consumers must always protect themselves from unlicensed, unscrupulous contractors who prey on them. You’d never buy a car without thoroughly researching it; do the same before investing in your home. Here are some tips from CSLB:

  • Check the license: For your protection, hire only state-licensed contractors. Verify a license by calling CSLB toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or visit cslb.ca.gov. Any contractor doing $500 or more in work (including materials and labor) must be licensed by CSLB to work in California. Confirm that your contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance for employees that might be working in your home. Otherwise, you could be liable for their injuries.
  • Get at least three bids: Obtain at least three price estimates and ask for references on work the contractor has completed locally. Check out the finished projects in person if possible.
  • Get it in writing: In California, there must be a written contract for all home improvement projects over $500 in combined labor and materials costs.Contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10 percent of the total cost for the job or $1,000, whichever is less. Ask for a current list of contact information for not only the contractor, but also the subcontractors and suppliers.
  • Manage the project and monitor payments: Never pay in cash and don’t let payments get ahead of the work. Keep all receipts, and don’t make the final payment until you’re completely satisfied with the finished job.

CSLB’s quick and comprehensive video is a must-see for those about to undertake home-improvement projects: www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/Hire_A_Contractor/Do_It_Right_Video.aspx

Also keep in mind the recent State Civil Code law change—effective January 2014—that requires anyone applying for a building permit that will alter or improve a single-family residence built in 1994 or earlier to replace all plumbing fixtures with water-saving designs. Replacement is a condition of receiving final permit approval from a local building department. In an Industry Bulletin published for contractors, CSLB clarified that building permits issued for property maintenance and repairs (such as re-roofing, water heater replacement, window replacement and some others as determined by the State Building Code) do not trigger the new requirements. Be sure to check all the details here: www.cslb.ca.gov/Media_Room/Industry_Bulletins/2014/January_17.aspx.

Sierra Survey Boosts Drought Outlook


California Council on Science and Technology Fellow John Thompson, right, joins Frank Gehrke, Chief Snow Surveyor for the Department of Water Resources, at the fourth media snow survey for the 2015/2016 season on March 30th.

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, on April 1, 2015, Governor Brown stood at the site of the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) annual early spring snow survey in the Sierra Nevada—Phillips Station, 90 miles east of Sacramento—but there was no snow to survey.

The Governor stood on dirt that day and issued his mandate to cut urban water use in California by 25 percent due to dire drought conditions. The Statewide snowpack’s water content was only 5 percent of the historical April 1 average, the lowest amount ever recorded.

Fast forward to March 30 this year, and the DWR snow survey told a much improved—if not totally rosy—story. Several feet of snow covered the Phillips Station site and, according to DWR, the snowpack water content on March 30 was 97 percent of the historical average for that day. Statewide, the snowpack—which accounts for nearly one-third of California’s water—was at 87 percent of normal.

However, while rainfall so far this year is significantly improved over last year for the critical Northern California watershed (29 percent above average), DWR cautions that conditions are less favorable in the Central Valley and Southern California. Key reservoirs in the north—Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom—now store more water than the average, but a lack of rain in the south has resulted in below-average storage in nearly all reservoirs there.

DWR emphasizes that, due to drought conditions that are still felt in many parts of the State, residents should continue water conservation efforts.

More information from the Department of Water Resources

For water conservation tips, visit Save Our Water: http://saveourwater.com
Drought Breaking News Page: www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/
Water Conditions Page: http://water.ca.gov/waterconditions/waterconditions.cfm

Going for Gold: Statewide Golden Lawn Contest


Letting your lawn go gold not only helps conserve water during our historic drought—you may have a chance to win a substantial credit toward your water bill if you enter the Golden Lawn Contest sponsored by Golden State Water Company and California’s Statewide conservation education program, Save Our Water.

“The majority of California’s residential water use is for outdoor irrigation, and this contest is a great opportunity to both recognize customers who are using water responsibly and embrace lawns that have gone gold,” said Denise Kruger, Senior Vice President of Regulated Utilities for Golden State Water.

Entering the contest is easy: Submit a photo of your golden lawn by Tuesday, September 29 for a chance to win the first-place prize: A $100 credit on your water bill, or second prize: A $50 credit on your water bill. Prizes will be awarded on September 30. Photos can be submitted via email at contest@gswater.com or sent to @GoldenStateH2O on Twitter using the #GoGoldCA hashtag.

For information on contest guidelines and submission details, visit gswater.com/contest or saveourwater.com. For updates and information about the drought and conservation, follow Golden State Water (@GoldenStateH2O) and Save Our Water (@SaveOurWater) on Twitter.