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Gov. Brown signs drought proclamation

Cattle now leaving for ‘greener pastures’

Merdies Hayes | 5/2/2014, midnight
Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed a new, sweeping emergency drought proclamation to cut red tape for a number of ...

Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed a new, sweeping emergency drought proclamation to cut red tape for a number of government entities with an eye on assisting water agencies to find new sources of water. The latest U.S. drought monitor says 100 percent of California is in an official drought.

“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in Sacramento. On Jan. 17 he proclaimed a drought emergency throughout the state to urge residents to curtail water usage during the worst stretch of dry weather in recent California history. Now he’ll go even further by waiving compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and the state water code for a number of actions including water transfers, wastewater treatment projects, habitat improvements for a dwindling supply of winter-run Chinook salmon, and also curtailment of water rights for farmers in the Central Valley.

Brown’s new order will suspend competitive bidding requirements for drought-related projects now underway by several state agencies, including the departments of Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife and Public Health. For homeowners and business owners, the new directives call on all Californians to avoid using water to clean sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and others hardscapes. State officials would prefer residents wash vehicles only at car washes that use recycled water, and also limit lawn watering to twice weekly. Also, the new guidelines encourage outdoor sports facilities to similarly reduce irrigation of playing fields. Hotels and restaurants are urged to provide guests the options to reduce water consumption such as limiting laundering of linens and to offer a glass of water only upon request.

The proclamation also calls on the State Water Resources Control Board to order all local water service providers to adopt these measures as customer requirements, if they have not already.

Homeowner associations will no longer be able to operate under a loophole that allows them to require residents to water lawns—even if this conflicts with local water agency rules—and they will now be fined if they are found in violation. The old, private rules are “void and unenforceable” as they relate to the new state water-rationing standards.

It is still under fierce debate whether “global warming” is linked to the California drought and the polar vortex in the east that has been blamed for a harsh, extended winter blast of snow and ice—including as well the torrential rains that hit southern Florida late this week long before hurricane season. Utah State University is conducting a study that, so far, has asserted a link between climate change and the unusual weather patterns around the world.

The study blames an unusual “dipole,” or combination of a strong Western high pressure ridge and a deep Great Lakes low-pressure trough. The dipole is linked to a recently found precursor to El Nino, the world-weather changing phenomenon, and that precursor seems amplified by a build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gas. “It’s like a complex game of weather dominos that starts with cold water off China and ends with a devastating drought and memorable winter in the United States,” said study author Simon Wang, a Utah State University climate scientist.

Now cattle farmers have begun to truck their steers to the midwest and east to fatten them up. A recent Reuters review of state agriculture department records that are filed when livestock cross state borders indicates that up to 100,000 California cattle have left the state for “greener pastures.” It’s not the first time California cattle ranchers have shipped out cattle, but the current migration is bigger and includes more of the state’s breeding stock, which give birth to new calves and keeps the supply of meat and dairy products running consistently.