Thursday, 2 April 2015

New Zealand's drought


I am working on getting information on the drought in the South Island, especially in light of an el-Nino forming in the Pacific and the consequence for Canterbury's snow-fed rivers in the light of rapid climate change.

I do not have specialised scientific knowledge but sufficient, I think, to be able to perhaps join some dots.

Nobody is writing about this, and no one very much seems to be speaking of it (that I know) except for the few that notice what is going on around them.

Watch this space

PS The graph is for water levels at the Lake Opuha dam in South Canterbury that was closed in February. Although there looks to have been some improvement in March the fall-off in lake levels is precipitous and unprecedented.

Maps like the one below never seem to quite reflect the situation

Extreme weather - 04/01/2015

Giant storm viewed from space
From space its beauty is beguiling, hiding the terror being created below

2 April, 2015

Cyclone Maysak seen from the International Space Station.Cyclone Maysak seen from the International Space Station. Photo: ESA / NASA / Samantha Cristoforetti

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured the above image of super typhoon Maysak from the International Space Station on Tuesday.

At its height, the typhoon caused havoc in the Federated States of Micronesia, with serious damage in Chuuk state where five people were believed to have been killed. The small atolls of Fais and Ulithi in Yap state were directly hit.

The wind gusts from the typhoon reached 300 kilometres an hour.

Storm Niklas kills 9 in north, central Europe
A storm in northern and central Europe has killed at least nine people and injured dozens of others as the severe natural disaster battered through the region, causing travel chaos and destruction.

A demolished car hit by a fallen tree is pictured on April 1, 2015 in Hamburg, northern Germany, after Storm Niklas hit the country. © AFP
1 April, 2015

Authorities said on Wednesday that the chaos, which hurricane-strength Storm Niklas brought to Germany, Austria and Switzerland for much of Tuesday, claimed the lives of seven people in Germany.

Storm Niklas, with wind strengths of above 190 kilometers per hour (118 miles per hour), is believed to be one of the strongest storms that has hit Germany since 2007. Niklas began to rage through Europe as of late March 29.
In Germany, three of the victims died in weather-related car crashes, while another three were killed after trees fall onto their cars by the sudden snow and hail storms in the country’s worst-hit southern region of Bavaria. Another man died when strong hail caused a wall to collapse.
In Austria, a 63-year-old man was crushed to death as a concrete wall collapsed onto him. Meanwhile, a nine-year-old girl was severely injured when a tree fell on her.
Niklas claimed a 75-year-old’s life in Switzerland, as trees fell onto his car.
The severe weather conditions affected road and rail traffic. A spokesman for rail operator, Deutsche Bahn (DB), said, “The hurricane hit our rail lines with full force,” adding, “Not all of our personnel can be at the stations where the schedule calls for them to be.” 
Similarly, aerial transportation has been affected with Frankfurt Airport announcing that a large number of scheduled flights for Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled due to the storm.
According to Germany’s National Meteorological Service (DWD), Niklas has lost its strength in Germany. However, weaker storms would probably carry on throughout Wednesday.
The gale, which spread across Scotland, Poland, northern and eastern France before reaching Germany on Tuesday, has left many homes roofless and tens of thousands of households without electricity.

Mega-drought in Colorado and South-west

Iraqi forces retake Tikrit

Practising catch-up. This news is a day or so old.

This seems to be the achievement of Iraqi forces backed by volunteer forces, not the United States and its "allies"

Exclusive: Iraqi forces totally Liberate Tikrit from ISIL terrorists

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Ababdi says the army backed by volunteer forces has totally liberated the city of Tikrit from the ISIL takfiri terrorists. The Iraqi forces managed to push out the ISIL from Tikrit after weeks of operations. The Iraqi troops’ advance was slowed by numerous booby traps and other explosive devices planted by the terrorists. The Iraqi army says its troops and the popular forces inflicted heavy casualties on the ISIL. The terrorist group captured Tikrit in June

Yemen - America's new war

US warships join Saudi attack on Yemen: Source

The United States Navy has reportedly joined Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes against Yemen, according to a military source.

1 April, 2015

US warships took part in an air assault against Yeminis on Monday, the source has told a Russian media outlet.

"American ships participated in yesterday's airstrikes on Sanaa, specifically, they launched a cruise missile on a strengthened missile brigade,” the source told Sputnik on Tuesday.

The airstrike began after Saudi warplanes failed to hit weapons depots belonging to Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement, the source noted.

On Monday, the Saudi-led airstrikes targeted the Houthi’s missile site in the southern Sana’a neighborhood of Faj Attan, according to witnesses.

The announcement of US participation is the first one showing a collaboration between the US military and Saudi Arabia in the attack on Yemen.

President Barack Obama has expressed his support of the assault on the people of Yemen one day after the airstrikes began on March 26.

In the latest air raid on Wednesday, 29 people were killed and 24 more injured. The airstrike targeted a food factory in the western Yemeni province of Hudaydah.

Saudi Arabia started air campaign in Yemen in a bid to restore power to fugitive former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries.

He fled Aden to the Saudi capital Riyadh after Ansarullah fighters advanced toward the southwestern Yemeni city, where he had sought to set up a rival power base, and where he withdrew his resignation

A policeman stands guard at Sanaa airport February 12, 2015.(Reuters / Khaled Abdullah )

A state-chartered Russian plane destined for the Yemeni capital Sanaa had been diverted to Cairo, after the Saudi-led coalition reportedly refused it landing permission, leaving scores of Russian expats awaiting evacuation to languish at the airport.

Yemeni's pack their belongings onto a vehicle as they flee from the southern Yemeni city of Aden on March 30, 2015.

19 killed as fighting breaks out in Yemen’s Aden

At least 19 people have been killed during clashes between Popular Committees allied with Houthi's Ansarullah movement and al-Qaeda terrorists in the Yemeni city of Aden, officials say.

And now for commentary - 

CrossTalk - The Yemen Template

Eric Draitser of appears on Crosstalk to discuss the war in Yemen. He points out the obvious hypocrisy of US policy as it champions legitimacy of the deposed government in Yemen, while rejecting the same concept in Ukraine. Draitser examines some of the primary motivations for both Saudi Arabia and the United States in this war, as well as the failures and distortions of the western corporate media. Also, he addresses some of the regional geopolitics, demonization of Iran, and much more.

US fights ISIS...while aiding ISIS

Eric Draitser

An explosion following an air strike is seen in western Kobani neighbourhood (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

31 March, 2015

As the war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) rages on, the US has stepped up its air campaign, combining destructive bombs with anti-ISIS leaflets.

But while US propaganda efforts are ostensibly aimed at disrupting ISIS recruitment, overall US involvement has yielded mixed results at best.
On the one hand, Washington is engaging in a psychological campaign designed to dissuade potential ISIS fighters from joining up, with leaflets depicting grisly images of young men being sent into a meat grinder. On the other hand however, the US continues to exacerbate the situation in both Iraq and Syria by providing material support, both directly and indirectly, to the very groups whom they claim to be fighting.

While the US seems to be engaged in a psychological war against ISIS, it is equally involved in a systematic campaign of sabotage against those forces that are actually fighting ISIS on the ground. And so, as it often does, Washington is playing both sides of the conflict in order to achieve an outcome to its own political advantage, and to the detriment of Syria, Iran, and other interested parties.

The US psychological war against ISIS

Since the emergence of ISIS on the world stage, much has been made of the organization’s ability to recruit fighters, produce propaganda, and effectively get its message across to the young Muslims around the world. There have been countless news stories of Muslim youths from the West eagerly joining up to fight in far flung war zones like Syria and Iraq, seemingly translating their disaffection with their own lives into an ideological identification with ISIS extremism.

But beneath the surface of such ideological explanations is the fact, publicly acknowledged by many counter-terrorism experts, that ISIS propaganda, coupled with the financial benefits the organization offers, is responsible for some of the allure of joining the fight. And so, the US has launched a full scale psychological war for the hearts and minds” of these naïve youths and poverty-stricken potential fighters.

The Pentagon confirmed that they had dropped tens of thousands of leaflets on the Syrian city of Raqqa in an attempt to dissuade potential recruits from joining ISIS. While this may seem a relatively harmless exercise in counter-propaganda, the reality is that it is at best a poorly conceived, and at worst utterly disingenuous, attempt to counteract ISIS recruitment. Were the US serious about eradicating the cancer of ISIS in Syria, US military officials would be coordinating with their Syrian counterparts in a comprehensive attempt to destroy the organization. For while the US Air Force drops leaflets, the Syrian Arab Army has been fighting ISIS on the ground for nearly three years, paying a very high price in blood to protect its country from the internationally constituted terror organization.
Reuters / U.S. Air Force / Staff Sgt. Perry Aston
Reuters / U.S. Air Force / Staff Sgt. Perry Aston

US military planners understand perfectly that it is the Syrian military, not slick propaganda leaflets, which will carry the day in the war against ISIS in Syria. While perhaps useful for the public relations campaign back home, such leaflets will do little to change the tactical or strategic situation on the ground. The same goes for the recently announced expansion of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, the State Department’s attempt at counter-messaging” ISIS propaganda on social media and in cyberspace generally.

But, while the US presents itself as pursuing a comprehensive psychological war against ISIS, its military and covert actions tell a far different story.

Fighting ISIS by arming them?

The media has been abuzz in recent months with numerous accounts of US weapons and other supplies falling directly into the hands of ISIS, providing the terror group with invaluable material support at a time when it had suffered heavy losses in both Syria and Iraq. As Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for one of the main groups fighting ISIS in Tikrit told the NY TimesWe don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS... In the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake.”

Indeed, these allegations are supported dozens of accounts of airdropped US weapons being seized by ISIS. As Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui noted in January, 

The information that has reached us in the security and defense committee indicates that an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin... This incident is continuously happening and has also occurred in some other regions.”

Whether these incidents are simply honest mistakes by the vaunted US military with all its precision bombing capabilities, or they are indications of a more callous attempt to inflict casualties on all sides and prolong the regional war, either way they represent an abject failure of the US strategy against ISIS. But of course, the US policy failure goes much further than just mistakes on the battlefield. Rather, the entire policy of arming so-called moderates” in Syria has led directly to the growth of ISIS into a regional power.

Since 2012, the US, primarily through the CIA, has been providing weapons and training to terrorists in Syria under the guise of arming moderates.” Many of these allegedly moderate groups have in recent months been documented as having either disbanded or defected to ISIS, including the little publicized mass defections of former Free Syrian Army fighters. However it has happened, a vast arsenal of US-supplied weapons and other military hardware are now counted among the ISIS arsenal. So much for the US policy of ensuring the weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

So, while the US has proclaimed to be fighting ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, they have been simultaneously arming and supporting many of the same forces which now make up much of the rank-and-file of these terror groups. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
A leaflet created by the United States Department of Defense to be dropped over Syria is shown after being released to Reuters by the Pentagon in Washington March 26, 2015 (Reuters / U.S. Department of Defense)

A leaflet created by the United States Department of Defense to be dropped over Syria is shown after being released to Reuters by the Pentagon in Washington March 26, 2015 (Reuters / U.S. Department of Defense

Washington: Peace broker or arms dealer?

Those who follow US foreign policy are likely unsurprised by these revelations of Washington providing arms and intensifying an already dangerous conflict. In Syria, the US has consistently argued that the Syrian government cannot be seen as a partner for peace, and so they must provide weapons tomoderates.” In Ukraine, where the US has a compliant and servile government that executes its diktats, Washington still supplies the arms, talking of peace and stability while exacerbating the war and human tragedy in East Ukraine.

Last week, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed (348-48) a resolution to provide military support in the form of weapons to Ukraine. As Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated, The people of Ukraine are not looking for American troops. They are just looking for the weapons to defend themselves. They don't have those weapons. We do.”

Indeed, it seems that US policy is to pursue peace” at the barrel of a US-made, US-supplied gun. As Secretary of State John Kerry explained in his usual self-contradictory manner To get peace, you have to defend your country,” a devilishly cynical statement from the man who, entirely without irony, explained in 2014 that you don’t just invade another country on a phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”Perhaps, rather than invading countries, the Obama administration has decided to simply provide the weapons, training, and logistical and material support in order to assert its own interests.

While Syria and Iraq face an existential struggle against the wildfire that is the Islamic State, the United States arrives, gas can in hand, to make peace. As Ukraine slides deeper into civil war, the US provides all the ingredients for a witches’ brew of violence and bloodshed.
For all its talk of psychological war against ISIS, Washington has embraced an aggressive, multi-pronged approach that leaves little doubt as to the thinking of its strategic planners: the enemy of my enemy is both friend and enemy. As Tacitus famously said of the Romans, They make a desert and call it peace.”So too do the Americans in the blood-soaked deserts of Syria and Iraq.

Strategy of Using Gulf Monarchies to Project US Power in Mideast is Unraveling

the Real News

Glen Ford says US-backed Saudi-led air attacks on the Houthis, who are dedicated fighters against al-Qaeda, are making al-Qaeda the real winners in this war

Make No Mistake — the United States Is at War in Yemen
The White House just doesn’t want to admit it.

30 March, 2015

The Obama administration revealed that the United States was participating in yet another Middle East military intervention via a press release from the spokesperson of the National Security Council (NSC). This time, it’s Yemen. Late Wednesday evening, March 25, the White House posted a statement declaring: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.”

There was no prime-time address by the president or secretary of defense -- the only two people in the national command authority who can lawfully direct the U.S. military to engage in hostilities. There was no statement from the Department of Defense, the federal agency responsible for those armed forces providing the support to the GCC, or comment from U.S. Central Command, the combatant command whose geographic area of responsibility includes the GCC members and Yemen itself. Rather, the NSC spokesperson simply let us know.

U.S. officials subsequently emphasized that aiding partner countries in their intervention into Yemen is simply “providing enabling support,” as Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini, Middle East principal director of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, told a House hearing last week. And the NSC made it clear that “U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen.”

Yet, make no mistake, the United States is a combatant in this intervention.
The United States is providing targeting intelligence, as the Wall Street Journal reported: “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb, U.S. officials said.” These video feeds are being provided via U.S. drones, because American manned aircraft are reportedly not presently flying over Yemeni airspace. (One needs to ask: Did U.S.-supplied video feeds help to direct the airstrikes that have caused civilian casualties?) Either way, the aid is clearly above and beyond “logistics” and “intelligence”: The Saudi Defense Ministry announced a U.S. search-and-rescue mission by a HH-60 helicopter flying from Djibouti of two Saudi pilots who ejected from their F-15SA over the Gulf of Aden. Oh, and the United States is also reportedly providing aerial refueling for Saudi fighter aircraft.

This has become a routine pattern for a president who declared in his 2013 inaugural address, “a decade of war is now ending.” The Obama administration has initiated (in Libya and Syria/Iraq) and extended (in Afghanistan) military operations with virtually no public debate or formal role for Congress -- a situation that the American people and their elected representatives have tacitly accepted in repeated interventions and in the war on terrorism more generally.

But even though Code Pink isn’t marching on the Mall against the “enabling” of the Yemen campaign, it’s probably still worth trying to understand and evaluate the logic and objectives of the U.S. military support for the Saudi-led intervention.
A military operation that lacks clear courses of action, coherent objectives, or an intended end state is nothing more than the random, purposeless application of force against some enemy.

A military operation that lacks clear courses of action, coherent objectives, or an intended end state is nothing more than the random, purposeless application of force against some enemy.

Like all military interventions, there have been many -- at times contradictory -- justifications offered by U.S. officials. The NSC claimed the purpose was to “defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government.” The State Department suggested that the intent was “to promote a peaceful political transition and share their concerns about the aggressive actions of the Houthis,” stating on March 27 that the United States backed the GCC because “they are responding to a request from President [Abed Rabbo Mansour] Hadi, who is the legitimate president of Yemen.” (Presumably, the Obama administration would not support an intervention in Egypt to restore its democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.)

And then the White House weighed in, with deputy press secretary Eric Schultz first framing the purpose of the campaign as being “to defend Saudi Arabia’s border” and prevent the establishment of an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula safe haven. Later, press secretary No. 1, Josh Earnest, shifted the message, claiming that the purpose was “to try to bring all of the sides, who are in pretty stark disagreement in Yemen, around the negotiating table to try to stabilize the situation in that country.” It is unclear who will sit around this table, since there have been no apparent efforts by the GCC, U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Jamal Benomar, or Houthi representatives to commence these negotiations.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, legislators tried to frame the issue as friend versus foe. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) stated that intervention was needed because the Arab countries “can’t allow Iran to take a foothold in Yemen.... We call them Houthis, but this is Iran,” said Burr, oversimplifying the matter. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) emphasized the need to “have the Saudis' back ... because that may give the Saudis some comfort that, even if we do reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be willing to confront Iran as it tries to expand its quite nefarious influence.” Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed the intent was “to protect [Saudi Arabia’s] homeland and to protect their own neighborhood.” Finally, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) endorsed the U.S. assistance on the most general justification of all: The civil war was “threatening the national security interests of our regional partners and the United States.”

At least the Pentagon wasn’t trying to make things up. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Central Command, was frank when asked what the purpose of the campaign was, stating, “I don’t currently know the specific goals and objectives of the Saudi campaign, and I would have to know that to be able to assess the likelihood of success.” Despite the astonishing acknowledgment that he did not know why the intervention was occurring and was only given a few hours' advance notice, Austin declared himself “very encouraged that we have seen what we’ve seen here.”

What is notable is that Saudi Arabia has made little mention of protecting its borders, with its ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, stating that the purpose of the intervention was “to protect the people of Yemen from a radical organization that has allied with Iran and Hezbollah that has virtually taken over the country. It’s to defend the legitimate government of Yemen. And it’s to open up the way for political talks, so that Yemen can complete its transition period and move towards a better place.” Jubeir also declared of this proxy war: “I wouldn't call it a proxy war because we are doing this to protect Yemen.”

So let’s recap, shall we? The United States is providing operational support to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen to: 1) defend the borders of and prove its commitment to Saudi Arabia; 2) deny al Qaeda a safe haven; 3) protect Yemeni civilians; 4) make GCC members comfortable with a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program; 5) halt the expansion of Iranian influence generally; 6) protect the interests of nearby countries; and 7) foster a peaceful political transition of the Yemeni government back to power.

All of this despite the fact that the U.S. military commander for the region is unaware of the “specific goals and objectives” of those countries bombing Yemen. This is preposterous.

All of this despite the fact that the U.S. military commander for the region is unaware of the “specific goals and objectives” of those countries bombing Yemen. 
This is preposterous.

Remarkably, the administration still defends Obama’s claim that the “strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen.” [Italics added -- and needed.] The White House spokesperson said this statement holds because 

Yemen is not a nation-building strategy; it’s a counterterrorism strategy,” while the State Department added, “It’s a success and it has been a success for many years because of our efforts to push back and counter [al Qaeda] in Yemen.” 

Beyond these two on-the-record mouthpieces, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone within the U.S. government who would agree off the record. Those drones that once took out terrorists now feed full-motion video to Saudi targeteers. And that front-line partner in the fight against al Qaeda, President Hadi, is in exile in Riyadh. That sure doesn’t look like a strategy successfully pursued.

To see Yemen exclusively through the lens of U.S. counterterrorism goals, and thus deem it a foreign-policy “success,” is not only insensitive to the chaos Yemenis are experiencing, it is incredibly shortsighted -- if not downright disingenuous.

It is entirely implausible that the seven-course buffet of justifications and objectives will be achieved in Yemen. Oh, and there’s one more falsehood that we’re being fed: This will all be over soon. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke pronounced on Friday: “We don’t want this to be an open-ended military campaign.” Of course, nobody wants that, though the leaders of the bombing campaign have pledged it will not end until the Houthis simply surrender and disarm. No doubt, much of the military and civilian infrastructure being destroyed will have to be rebuilt -- in effect, nation-building again.

As Fred Iklé wrote in his 1971 classic Every War Must End, “[I]t is the outcome of the war, not the outcome of the campaigns within it, that determines how well their plans serve the nation’s interests.” The manner and speed with which the Obama administration decided to wholly back one side in Yemen’s latest proxy civil war -- with no clear outcome -- should be alarming. Unfortunately, this has become standard operating procedure for how the United States keeps going to war.

Nature Bats Last - 03/31/2015

Pauline Schneider and Carolyn Baker on Nature Bats Last

This week's show is hosted by Pauline Schneider. She provides updates about Guy's health and near-term speaking tours. She includes a long interview with Carolyn Baker.

California's drought

"Nope. Not an April Fool's Joke. This is the LOWEST snowpack ever recorded in history"

Calif. Gov. Issues Sweeping Water Restrictions

Talking Points Memo,
1 April, 2015

ECHO LAKE, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state officials Wednesday to impose mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history as the state grapples with a serious drought.

In an executive order, Brown ordered the state water board to implement measures in cities and towns that cut usage by 25 percent.

"We're in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action," Brown said at a news conference in the Sierra Nevada, where dry, brown grass surrounded a site that normally would be snow-covered at this time of year. "We have to pull together and save water in every way we can."

The move will affect residents, businesses, farmers and other users.

Brown's order also will require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use; order local governments to replace 50 million square feet of lawns on throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping; and create a temporary rebate program for consumers who replace old water-sucking appliances with more efficient ones.

The snowpack has been in decline all year, with electronic measurements in March showing the statewide snow water equivalent at 19 percent of the historical average for that date.

There was no snow at the site of the Wednesday snow survey.

Snow supplies about a third of the state's water, and a higher snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall.

Officials say the snowpack is already far below the historic lows of 1977 and 2014, when it was 25 percent of normal on April 1 — the time when the snowpack is generally at its peak.

Brown declared a drought emergency and stressed the need for sustained water conservation.

The Department of Water Resources will conduct its final manual snow survey at a spot near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. Electronic measurements are taken in a number of other places.

For First Time In History, California Governor Orders Mandatory Water Cuts Amid "Unprecedented, Dangerous Situation"

1 April, 2015

Amid the "cruelest winter ever," with the lowest snowpack on record, and with 98.11% of the state currently in drouight conditions, California Governor Jerry Brown orders mandatory water cuts in California for the first time in history...

Lowest snowpack on record...

98.11% Drought...

As ABC reports,

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a set of mandatory water conservation measures today, as the state continues to struggle with a prolonged drought that has lasted for more than four years.
"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow," Brown said in a statement after visiting a manual snow survey in the Sierra Nevadas. "This historic drought demands unprecedented action."
For the first time in the state's history, the governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions across California, in an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent.The measures include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, banning the watering of grass on public street medians, requiring agricultural water users to report their water use to state regulators, and requiring large landscapes such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make significant cuts in water use.
The governor’s announcement comes just a few weeks after NASA’s top water scientist, Jay Famiglietti, declared in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that California only had a year's-worth of water supply left in its reservoirs.
The last four years have been the driest in California’s recorded history. As of March 24, more than 98 percent of California is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, with 41.1 percent in an exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor, which estimates that more than 37 million Californians have been affected by the drought. The state’s snowpack, which is largely responsible for feeding the state’s reservoirs, has been reduced to 8 percent of its historical average, and in some areas in the Central Valley the land is sinking a foot a year because of over-pumping of groundwater for agriculture.
We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” the governor said in his January statement. At some point, we have to learn to live with nature, we have to get on nature’s side and not abuse the resources that we have.”

*  *  *
And as we noted previously, while all eyes are focused on dry river beds and fields of dust, the maountainous ski resort areas are seing their economies devastated. As Bloomberg reports,

Last year Vail reported a 28 percent drop in skier visits at its California resorts, and the company warned investors that its financial results would be worse than anticipated. 
Those numbers reflect what could be a larger contraction of Tahoe’s ski industry. Seasonal and part-time hiring has slid 27 percent over the last three years, according Patrick Tierney, a professor of recreation, parks, and tourism at San Francisco State University, and spending on ski-related services has decreased from $717 million a year to $428 million. An older analysis by the San Francisco Reserve Bank showed that the value of resort-area homes in places like Tahoe can depend heavily on climate; even a 2-degree increase could cut home values by more than 50 percent.

*  *  *
The drought is getting worse... not better.

From Daily Kos

California governor orders unprecedented water restrictions

NBC News is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown just issued an executive order that specifies water use to be cut by 25 percent statewide to deal with the state's relentless drought.

"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action," Brown said in a statement. "Therefore, I'm issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible."

Similar measures were considered during California's 1970s drought but were never implemented, according to the governor's office.

This comes after recent reports that California's "snowpack" is at record lows this spring.
California can expect no water for its drought depleted reservoirs from melting snow in the high Sierra. On March 23, one week from the April 1 date used by water forecasters to predict summer run off from melting snow, the Sierra Nevada's snow water content was a record low 9% of normal. Near record warmth is forecast in the coming week and little precipitation is forecast in the next 10 days going into the long, hot, summer dry season. Melting snow normally constitutes one third of California's water supplies and acts to lengthen the spring season. This year summer will come early. Reservoirs and groundwater levels will begin to fall months earlier than normal because of the lack of mountain snow melt this spring.

Governor Brown, just a few weeks ago, signed fast-track legislation to expedite $1 billion inemergency funds for this drought.

From today's release:
For the first time in state history, the Governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.
To save more water now, the order will also:
-Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;
-Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models;
-Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and
-Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

For those of us living out here, this has been a long time coming. Now we just need to getagriculture under control.
But agriculture consumes a staggering 80 percent of California’s developed water, even as it accounts for only 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Most crops and livestock are produced in the Central Valley, which is, geologically speaking, a desert. The soil is very fertile but crops there can thrive only if massive amounts of irrigation water are applied.
Although no secret, agriculture’s 80 percent share of state water use is rarely mentioned in media discussions of California’s drought. Instead, news coverage concentrates on the drought’s implications for people in cities and suburbs, which is where most journalists and their audiences live. Thus recent headlines warned that state regulators have ordered restaurants to serve water only if customers explicitly request it and directed homeowners to water lawns no more than twice a week. The San Jose Mercury News pointed out that these restrictions carry no enforcement mechanisms, but what makes them a sideshow is simple math: During a historic drought, surely the sector that’s responsible for 80 percent of water consumption—agriculture—should be the main focus of public attention and policy.

The only real nod to agriculture in Brown's release today is here:
Agricultural water users - which have borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off - will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state's ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today's order. Additionally, the Governor's action strengthens standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submitted by large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans. These plans will help ensure that agricultural communities are prepared in case the drought extends into 2016.
It's a start. But a very small one.

Nestlé is draining California aquifers, from Sacramento alone taking 80 million gallons annually. Nestlé then sells the people's water back to them at great profit under many dozen brand name.

Citing the enormous strain animal agriculture has on its dwindling water supply, the state of California announced it would close all meat, dairy, and egg operations and provide assistance in transforming these businesses into water-saving vegan food production facilities.

As the drought continues dust storms will become the norm

Haze of dust obscures views across Las Vegas Valley

26 November, 2014

Strong northwesterly winds kicked up a haze of dust across the Las Vegas Valley this morning, obscuring distant views of the Strip and surrounding mountains.​

Winds up to 29 mph have been recorded at McCarran International Airport and up to 32 mph in North Las Vegas, National Weather Service meteorologist Nathan Foster said. The wind is expected to strengthen this afternoon, he said.

A wind advisory for the valley has been issued for 9 p.m. today through 11 a.m. Thursday, Foster said. Gusts are expected to reach up to 50 mph, he said.

The strongest winds are expected on the west side of the valley, in the Summerlin area, Foster said.

The Clark County Department of Air Quality, meanwhile, issued a dust advisory effective through Thursday morning.

Unhealthy levels of dust have not been recorded, but officials will monitor conditions and post an alert on the department’s website if conditions change. Officials have also sent notices to construction sites asking that precautions be taken to prevent blowing dust.

Dust can aggravate respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma, officials said. Children, the elderly and those with respiratory diseases are urged to stay inside during dust storms.

Nope. Not an April Fool's Joke. This is the LOWEST snowpack ever recorded in history.