TIME Environment

California Announces $1 Billion Emergency Drought Relief Package

The move comes days after new rules cracking down on lawn watering and tap water at restaurants

As if Californians needed another reminder that their state is dangerously hot and dry, they got it on March 15 when more than 30 runners at the Los Angeles marathon were hospitalized due to record high temperatures. The late winter heat wave — the mercury climbed above 90 in the city and surrounding areas — offered stark notice that, four years into a severe drought, the Golden State remains desperately parched with little relief in sight.

Gov. Jerry Brown and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers attempted to deliver some form of it Thursday when they announced a $1 billion plan to provide immediate relief and stave off future problems.

“This is a struggle,” Brown reportedly said during a press conference announcing the package. “Something we’re going to have to live with. For how long, we’re not sure.”

While the legislation includes millions of dollars in emergency aid, it also earmarks $660 million for flood prevention. Brown explained that flood control and drought relief were of a piece, according to the Los Angeles Times, describing them as “extreme weather events” related to climate change.

The new measures come two days after state officials voted March 17 to enact some of the broadest and strictest statewide water limits in California history. Outdoor lawn and landscape watering, which accounts for about half of all consumption in urban areas, will be limited to two days per week.

“It’s the number one thing that could be done and it’s easy,” says Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The water board regulations will also ban residents from irrigating during rainstorms and for two days afterward. And restaurants will be permitted to offer tap water to patrons only upon request.

Given how little the new water regulations ask of residents, it’s easy to wonder why they weren’t enacted earlier. With surface water at dangerously low levels and non-renewable groundwater being depleted at a rapid pace, Famiglietti warned in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed that the state must immediately ration water before California’s supply is gone completely.

“Because of the severity of the situation, I do think the public is ready for it,” Famiglietti says.

Several polls appear to back him up. An October 2014 survey found that Californians are just as worried about the drought as they are about the economy. Ninety-four percent of state residents polled in February said they consider the drought to be “serious.” Still, Californians seem unwilling to voluntarily curb their water consumption as much as officials would like. In January 2014, Brown urged Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. Statewide usage this past in January was just 9 percent less than the same month in 2013.

“Even though it was historically dry, it was still raining,” says Sarah Rose, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “People see the rain and think they can go back to their old habits. We’re going to have to create new habits.”

While experts call the new water board rules a step in the right direction, they worry that more drastic, but necessary, measures like rationing and water price increases still haven’t been proposed.

“No one wants to be responsible for delivering the hard news that people have to significantly change their behavior,” says Charles Stringer, chair of the regional water board in Southern California. “We’re trying to get where we need to go without too much pain and sacrifice. But what the water experts and policy makers are saying with increasing urgency is that’s not possible.”

New regulations come with their own problems of how to enforce them. “There’s not going to be the manpower to do it,” says Famiglietti. A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that after California authorized emergency drought measures last summer to allow local communities to issue $500 fines for excessive water use, few residents actually got tickets.

In the meantime, officials are hoping public information campaigns might be more effective. One water district in Northern California has adopted “Brown is the New Green” as a new motto, encouraging residents to let their lawns die to conserve water. “People should feel really proud of having a brown lawn,” says Famiglietti.

TIME Environment

This Was the Warmest Winter on Record

But you wouldn't have guessed it if you lived on the East Coast

Global temperatures from December to February were the highest on record, U.S. climate officials said Wednesday.

If that comes as a surprise to many Americans after an agonizingly cold winter, it’s because the region encompassing the eastern United States and Canada was one of the only places on earth with lower-than-average temperatures.

NOAA

Globally, the average temperature from December to February was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average temperature was the highest since tracking began in 1880, surpassing the previous high in 2007 by .05 degrees.

Last month marked the second coldest February on record, behind February 1998.

Read next: It’s Official: Boston Had Snowiest Winter Ever

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME animals

This New Species of Catfish Was Named After a ‘Star Wars’ Character

Greedo from Star Wars
Lucasfilm Greedo from Star Wars

If this new species of catfish looks familiar, don’t be surprised—Peckoltia greedoi is named after Star Wars bounty hunter Greedo.

Researchers discovered the new species of catfish in 1998 in Brazil, but it had been catalogued as an existing species until 2014, CNN reports. When it came time to name the unidentified fish, they noted Peckoltia greedoi‘s uncanny likeness to the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope character.

“I think it was the whole package that evoked Greedo, but particularly the eyes and the underslung mouth,” said Jonathan Armbruster, biological sciences professor and curator of fishes at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, who helped name the species.

“As a 7-year-old kid, I watched “Star Wars” in the theater, and it was a life-changing experience for me,” said Armbruster. “Greedo has always been a personal favorite of mine.”

[CNN]

 

TIME Environment

Britain’s Prince Charles Urges Action to Clean Up the World’s Oceans 

Britain's Prince Charles greets participants in a conference about the rule of law in the 21st century as he visits the National Archives in Washington
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters Prince Charles, center, greets participants in a conference about the rule of law in the 21st century titled "The Magna Carta of the Future" as he visits the National Archives in Washington, D.C., on March 18, 2015

The future monarch called ocean waste "one issue that we absolutely cannot ignore"

The U.K.’s Prince of Wales made an ardent speech on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., urging world governments to tackle the growing problem of oceanic pollution.

Prince Charles told the government officials, corporate executives and nonprofit leaders present that he was “horrified” to learn that up to 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s seas each year.

“One issue that we absolutely cannot ignore is that of the increasing quantity of plastic waste in the marine environment,” he said on the first day of his 20th official visit to the U.S., reports Agence France-Presse.

The 66-year-old heir to the British throne then described a harrowing image of seabirds being killed after mistaking plastic for food.

Accompanied by his wife Camilla, he also paid a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Memorial.

On Thursday, the Prince will meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office to discuss climate change, youth opportunities and other world affairs.

TIME Environment

California May Crack Down Further This Week on Water-Wasters

A new report finds enforcement of penalties is rare

California may only have about one year’s supply of water left in its reservoirs, but a new report suggests regulators aren’t enforcing penalties at stemming water waste strictly enough.

Gov. Jerry Brown called on residents in January 2014 to reduce their usage by 20% when he declared a drought state of emergency, but the Associated Press reports that consumers only hit the mark in December, with the monthly average since July standing at 11%.

The state established rules last summer that allowed communities to fine excessive water-wasters up to $500, but the investigation finds enforcement has been rare. In Los Angeles, for instance, only two $200 fines were issued in a service area of about 4 million people; in the southern area of Coachella, no homes with pristine lawns received a warning letter.

MORE: California’s Drought Is Now the Worst in 1,200 Years

The report of lax enforcement coincided with a strongly worded op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by a NASA water scientist, who admitted the state “has no contingency plan for a persistent drought” like the current one. “We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too,” wrote Jay Famiglietti, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at University of California, Irvine.

On Tuesday, California’s State Water Resources Control Board will vote whether to extend and broaden the penalties for water-wasters.

TIME Environment

This Island Appeared From Nowhere

This diptych shows before and after satellite views of a new island, created when the island on the left fused with a volcanic crater, off the coast of Tonga. The pre-eruption satellite view before the island on the left became fused with the volcanic crater created by Hunga Tonga.
Pleiades/CNES/SIPA This diptych shows before and after satellite views of a new island, created when the island on the left fused with a volcanic crater, off the coast of Tonga. The pre-eruption satellite view before the island on the left became fused with the volcanic crater created by Hunga Tonga.

The underwater Hunga Tonga volcano created a new landmass in the South Pacific

The eruption of the underwater Hunga Tonga volcano in December has created a new island in the South Pacific.

The island is 1,640 feet long and made up of rock sediment from magma, the BBC reports. It’s likely to be dangerous for visitors, and remains highly unstable. One visitor noted that the surface was still hot to the touch, and another said we can’t be sure if the volcano is done erupting.

The new island is only 28 miles away from Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa.

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Special collaborative courts focus on rehabilitating troubled veterans. They’re working.

By Spencer Michels at PBS Newshour

2. PayPal runs a dead-simple microlending program that helps small businesses grow.

By Michelle Goodman in Entrepreneur

3. To make voters care, a radio station in L.A. picked a prototype non-voter and built their election coverage around him.

By Melody Kramer at Poynter.org

4. Can the mining industry become a responsible, reliable partner for local communities and the environment?

By Andrea Mustain in Kellogg Insight

5. Robert Mugabe is 91 years old. The world should prepare for a succession crisis in Zimbabwe.

By Helia Ighani at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Italy

A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Elisabetta Carugno (@elisabetta_carugno) via Instagram Instagram user Elisabetta Carugno posted this photo with the caption, "I'm too much small for this too much snow!! #snow #winter #weatherchannel #WinterGoHome #capracotta #molise #neve #me"

And you thought Boston was bad

The front doors in the village of Capracotta, Italy, are snow-where to be found.

In just 18 hours on Thursday, the village received 100.8 inches (8′ 4″) of snow,CNN reports, likely setting the all-time mark for most snow in 24 hours (though it’s not official yet).

That’s more snow than Boston got in January and February combined, but just short of the 107.9 inches that have inundated Beantown so far this year.

Capracotta is a town of 1,000 residents sitting at an altitude of 4,662 feet. The city is in the mountains a three-hour drive east of Rome and roughly halfway down the Italian Peninsula, and vulnerable to weather coming from the northeast.

The World Meteorological Organization will confirm whether the snowfall at Capracotte exceeded the 24-hour record of 75.8 inches in Silver Lake, Colorado, in 1921.

[CNN]

TIME natural disaster

The Odds of a Massive Earthquake Hitting California Just Went Up

The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.
Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.

But the chances of a moderate earthquake went down

The chances of earthquake magnitude 8.0 or greater hitting California in the next 30 years have been increased from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement Tuesday.

The revised forecast was calculated by the Third California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3), a follow-up to 2008’s UCERF2 conducted by USGS and its partners, who modeled the latest geological data.

While UCERF3 increased the odds of a massive California earthquake, the study lowered the chance of an earthquake around magnitude 6.7—like the 1994 Northridge earthquake—by about 30%, from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years.

“The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the study’s lead author Ned Field.

Read next: A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. How do we convince Americans that justice isn’t for sale — when in 39 states, it is?

By Sue Bell Cobb in Politico

2. It took pressure from customers and investors to make corporations environmentally sustainable. It’s time to do the same for gender equity.

By Marissa Wesely in Stanford Social Innovation Review

3. London’s congestion pricing plan is saving lives.

By Alex Davies in Wired

4. Libraries should be the next great start-up incubators.

By Emily Badger in CityLab

5. Annual replanting has a devastating impact. Could perennial rice be the solution?

By Winifred Bird in Yale Environment 360

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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