tv KQED Newsroom PBS April 23, 2022 1:00am-1:31am PDT
tonight on news room, we focus on the state of our climate in recognition of earth day. people talk with the head of california's environment protection agency, jared blumenfeld, about how the state is addressing our most urgent problems. and, why are we so often teetering on the edge of drought? our climate reporters explain where our water comes from and how it is used. plus, we go to sonoma county to meet carissa cruz, who leads the region's sustainable vineyards effort, where wine, both red and white, is going green.
coming to you from kqed at cristin severance is go, this friday, april 22nd, 2022. hello and welcome to the show, this is kqed newsroom, i am priya david clemens. today is earth day. in recognition, we are focusing on climate and sustainability in the golden state. there were sprinkles of rain in the bay area this week but not even a few healthy downpours could reverse the current state of extreme drought we are in. california has a complex system of moving water throughout the state, using major aqueducts, dams, and reservoirs. still, the supply of water never seems to quench our increasing thirst. why is that? several of our reporters and graphic artists teamed up to find the answers. >> reporter: california has one of the most ecologically altered landscapes in the world . through extensive engineering projects, we have turned in arid terrain into a uniquely productive state. but, the reality remains that there never seems to be enough water. over the past century, five
intense droughts have slammed to california. the last one ended in 2019. and, in 2021, we entered another. so, why do we always seem to be on the brink of drought? the answer lies in where and how california gets its water. there are two main sources of h2o. surface water, like rain and snow, and groundwater. the state holds its breath every winter, hoping for a rainy season to replenish its supplies. moisture which atmospheric revenues, or thick bands of water vapor that bring plentiful showers, are essential sources of hydration. to do and we are mired in drought. to many, though, and we are flooded. preservation whiplash, or sudden shifts from very dry to very wet conditions, can create disastrous mudslides. this is a very real risk, especially given that half of
southern california's rain can fall in less than 40 hours. th, there is snow, which conveniently falls in solid form across the sierras. snow supplies about 30% of california's water once it melts. but, snow is as variable as rain. a light season spells a small snowpack and a snow drought, not to mention a bad ski season and amateur melting means the snow won't be there later in the year when we need it. beneath the surface, california's aquifers, big pockets of rock, hold the state groundwater supplies. that water is pumped up through wells and it makes up around 40% of california's annual water usage. however, it is a finite resource. drilling deeper and deeper, mostly unregulated practice that has ly recently seen some controls, has awful geologic consequences. with each drop of water drawn out of the ground sinks and contacts, a process known as
subsidence, which has caused entire cities to sink in the central valley. how much water you have steady access to depends on where you are in the state. half of our development water supply, or water that can be managed and guided by us, doesn't go straight into our faucets. it instead flows through streams, rivers, and canals, where it does what water does when it is in its natural environment. helping plants grown, serving as habitat for fish and fowl, and hydrating ecosystems before evaporating back into the water cycle or flowing into the ocean. over the other half, 80% waters acres of almonds, grapes, and california crops and 20% travels to cities for human use. about three quarters of our rain and snow falls in northern california. and, a significant amount goes straight back into the environment because it falls in remote, less densely populated areas. and, of course, urban areas
like the san francisco bay area, take their share. but, a lot of water demand comes from the more populated, much drier southern california. this geographic problem is why we have invested in massive water infrastructure. california's water system tries to organize the funny stories of our aquifers and the shrinking seasonal capacity of our snowpack to control the fate of our hydration. the california state water project, which spans the entire state, began operation in 1960. it is the largest water transfer system in the world. it includes the 444 mile long california aqueduct and other compounds and waterways, as well as 1500 reservoirs. the project transfer 650 million gallons of water daily across the state and had a total capacity in wet years of almost 2 trillion gallons. but, even siphoning northern
water ist enough to quench southern california's thirst. there is another federally managed water shopping enterprise called the centra valley project. we even get water from out of state through the colorado river aqueduct. all of this water management has allowed california to water acres of crops, support huge metropolises, and nurture innovative industries. but, one reason we feel like one perpetual drought is that our system is finally balanced. all of california's growth and success has huge hydration needs and any decrease in water supply is felt keenly but it could mean less agriculture, fewer green lawns, and less of everything we have become accustomed to. california is drinking hard water and maybe growing on borrowed time. as the climate emergency continues, drought will continue to be a constant threat. this story was reported and
produced by catherine shaw and directed and animated by kelly geiger with a graphic design by rebecca cao. i am ezra david romero for kqed newsroom. our water collection and delivery systems in california are many decades old. climate change has changed our precipitation patterns so we now get rain and bigger, less frequent storms, which means we will need to update our infrastructure to capture that heavier stormwater runoff. that is not the only change that is needed. earlier this month, the state released a six part report updating the many impacts of climate change and the difficult consequences that californians will experience. here to talk about the state just efforts to combat climate change is california's secretary for environmental protection, jared blumenfeld. secretary blumenfeld, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, and happy earth day. >> happy birthday. where are you right now? >> i am in the eastern sierra
on my way to mono lake, which is one of the cases affected by what you said in the prior story. it is a beautiful day after a storm. i drove to the snow last night to get here. no one thought it would be snowing in april. with that that preservation had ended. we are getting weird, wacky weather, extreme weather because of climate change. no better place to find the evidence of that than california. >> you are the top brass in california when it comes to the environment. how would you say we are doing? what grade would you give our efforts to protect mother earth? >> so, when we think about the environment, often, we bring in politics and all those things like how much we can do. i am feeling both positive and frustrated. the pace of change is not meeting the environmental need of the planet. so, california is being battered by climate change and
we are putting billions of dollars and all the effort we can to try to combat that and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and all those other things. but, give us a b+, at best, at the moment. even with all that effort, things are not moving in the right direction quick enough. >> there certainly are critics that we are not moving fast enough. let's talk about how to best invest our resources to address specifically drought first. not only the one we are in now but the droughts that are expected to come inthe future. he talked about how there is more snow right now than expected. and, there are a lot of plans for new ways to capture more stormwater runoff, of building pricey desalination plants and doing more to recycle our wastewater. what are the and for structure projects that you think are most important for california to get done right away? >> just at the top, priya, really important to remember that 1 million californians a day don't have access to safe
and affordable drinking water. so, there communities mainly in the ntral valley, in the coachella valley, in the imperial valley, who just don't have access to water that meets standards or that is affordable. they are paying more for their drinking water today, even without the drought, even without climate change. so, big focus on equity, making sure that all californians have access, being able to turn the shower on. in terms of the big projects, we have to use water more efficiently. there is a still more that we can do. unbelievably, i'm going to mono lake. it was saved by people in l.a. bring in low-flow toilets, simple as that. there are a lot of us that can do more. things like making sure that we are not watering our lawns just after it rains, like today. it makes no point. turn your sprinkler off. there are people doing things like washing their cars when they don't need to. there are all kinds of things
we could do to save water. then there are big projects that you spoke to, like water recycling. how can we use water to get the most out of it more and more? we shouldn't really be watering our parks and courses with water that we can drink. there is recycled water that can be used. the state of california is putting billions and billions of dollars with the biden administration, the infra structure bill that passed to help put money back into california communities to build that infra structure so it is not ly good for the environment but also create good paying jobs. last thing, operational and maintenance positions. >> it has turned from water to the other big concern in the state right now in terms of climate change, that is wildfire. two years ago, the state launched the california vegetation treatment program to clear trees and reduced fire risk. a recent investigation by the california newsroom found that not a single project has been completed since the lot. the state board of forestry and fire protection projected 45,000 acres would be cleared
in just the first year alone. so, what happened here? >> there is lots of important work going on, priya, as it relates to changing dynamic amount of fire. when we think about the history of fire management in the state of california, basically, it was led by the forest service. it relates back to earth day. we had this very nacve view of wilderness is something you leave alone and it is going to take care of itself when, in fact, especially here on earth day, we need to recognize that we have been managing our forest for thousands of years, or chaparral. the goal, really, is to make sure we get back into a rhythm of managing the forest so there are not all the other stories that end up earning. many of this project going
forward. firsthand. out and seeing them i want to encourage people to understand that a huge amount is happening. it is a big paradigm shift in how we manage fires. >> california has led the nation in pushing for the use of electric vehicles and or regulations relating to electrical field calls. currently, the plan is to stop selling aspirin vehicles by 2035. and, there is a set of push and pull here. car companies are saying they can't make the change by then. advocates are saying the changes are coming too slowly. so, what needs to be done to realistically get us there? >> about 900 cars today in southern california are electric vehicles. more than half of all electric vehicles sold in the united states, sold in california. we are doing a lot. the governor put $6 billion, which is now potentially increasing in the budget to help the transition, doing everything from electric vehicle charging stations,
electrifying trucks and school buses. it is an all of the above strategy. the reason we need to attack it so fiercely, priya, is because 50% of california's greenhouse gas emissions are polluting and causing this extreme weather. 50% of the emissions come from the transportation sector. we need to do this quickly. we were told when we set this goal of 2035, which still is a ways away, that we were crazy. this is way too swift a change. so, the car companies i think are coming on board. you see everyone from ford f1 50 pickup truck will be on sale soon, the chevy volt. this is going mainstream. most importantly, making the switch right now will save you a huge amount at the pump. this is the wave of the future that is happening in california first. and, we need to help make sure that everyone in california, no matter what your income level, can get into an electric vehicle. >> last, let's turn to wind and solar, perennial favorite in the discussion of a more
environmentally friendly future. how quickly are those alternatives coming online and what are the obstacles? >> the price of renewable energy has gone down in terms of installing it just incredibly. in the last 20 years, wind and solar have gone down between 80 and 90%. so, it is now cheaper to put in solar than it is coal or gas. that has made a massive difference. we just got clearance from the biden administration to put offshore wind, the big turbines. you won't be able to see them but they will be powering the state and really helping us move toward a clean energy future. so, issues that still remain, all kinds of amazing obstacles, from permitting and processes that take years and years sometimes to get a solar field or wind turbine all the way through kind of global trade issues that are now impacting how we can put solar in. so, you know, we often think
that the polluters should be stopped and the good products should go forward. sometimes it is a big frustration i think many of us have is how long it takes to get some of these really important renewable energy projects in the ground. >> all right, thank you for your time, secretary jared blumenfeld, head of the california department of environmental protection. the lion's share of the water we use in the state goes to agriculture. most of that is sent to large firms. some two lifornia vineyards. sonoma county, known around the world for its fine wines, has also become a leader in sustainable agriculture. 99% of the counties wine grapes have been certified as grown under sustainable practices. through an innovative program launched by carissa cruz, president of the sonoma county winegrowers association. we recently drove up to sonoma to meet carissa in to see the
sustain ability measures and practice on an active vineyard. >> we have been on the sustainable mission from 2014 on. who knew how relevant our timing would be as we now can't escape a conversation about climate crisis and how agriculture can play a unique role in that. we are walking through cover crop. >> right, we have beans and thatch. often, there is mustard that is used. this is a natural way to put nutrients back into the soil. it is a really good erosion protection as well. >> i am also noticing these tubes coming along here. this is a drip irrigation. >> it is. now you see this in almost all the vineyards. this was sort of a technology or innovation change that happened decades ago. really, just small emitters. they slowly the water. they are going directly to úsup
to recharge the aquifer. in that way, there is no water waste happening. it is either providing growth or being saved. >> what was the spark, the impetus that made sonoma county decided to embark on the sustainability program in the first place, back in 2014? >> yes, our farmers were recognizing the world was changing and we were getting new technology available to us. in 2014, when we made our commitment, we were in a drought situation, much like we are now. so, we were starting to see more extremes in our weather and starting to really think about our workforce. social sustainability and all those things were kind of moving behind the scenes and it was like well, what if we were to look at all of those things together holistically across california, forming deals with water issues, it deals with climate, it deals with the same sort of labor force. so, we committed to doing one of those programs and putting it under sustainable sonoma county umbrella. >> you implemented this goal in 2014 to become completely sustainable. five years later, in which he could. >> we did. he has been the way the program works is the farmers do a self-
assessment of all these practices they evaluate themselves on. there is a third-party auditor that comes up to the ranch. they say okay, we are going to come up with two areas, we are going to see all these practices and validate what you say you are going to do. every year, the farmers have to write a plan to improve in some way to make an investment bank and a more sustainable. >> in addition to the city little italy measures we saw today when we were walking around, what else does this program and? >> there are 44 different practices that touch water. not just conjuration but water quality, water use. there are different practices around social sustainability. how are you limiting safety measures on your viyard? are you giving back to the community? do you sit on a local board? what are you doing to be part of the sonoma county community? then there are a lot of business pieces of it.
if you don't have a form, you are not in business the next year, who cares if you are sustainable in any of your practices ? the economic viability is critical. >> okay, most of the work is in the field in terms of sustainability but not all of it. >> absolutely. we are super excited. i'm about to show you one of the first ford pro charging stations in the world right here. this is part of our collaboration with ford pro to think about how we help our farmers go electric on their ranges. electric vanzeeland charging stations. trucks, and fleet management. how do they optimize their fleet and lower the idling time, release less greenhouse gases? >> let's talk about the specific challenges we are facing because of climate change. wildfires are one. you yourself lost our home in 2017 in the tub's fire. for you and for many who are here, it is very personal. >> it is extremely personal. when it literally like it in your backyard, or in my case, literally my backyard. i lost my home. you realize you have to start now. it is already probably too late for some of what we could have been doing for the last 50 years, last hundred years.
when it comes to wildfires specifically, there are a number of things our farmers are doing. we call it like hard escaping. it is really doing vegetation management it is removing brush that can really be a fuel for the fires, thinking about materials that are used in fencing. we have been doing a number of wildfire preparedness and safety classes just to teach people to think about how you stay safe, thinking about routes in and out of our community to make sure you are can't make it to safety. >> another big issue we have here in california is the lack of water. we are going into our third year of a drought, a very significant drought. how is that impacting the land right now? >> one thing that is interesting is wine grapes are, being our primary form of agriculture in sonoma county, they are a water efficient crop. they don't use a lot of water. in fact, over time, if you irrigate less and less you know, the vines respond to
that. you are sort of training vineyards to be less dependent on irrigation. so, historically the last 10, 15 years, you might water an entire vineyard at once. now they are saying the chardonnay in this blog that is this clone it needs exactly this much water and there is no waste because it is going right back into recharge the aquifer. we are getting position irrigation. we are becoming more precise in our forming. >> what is this little red guy? >> this doesn't look like much but this is a neutron probe. it helps our farmers really understand how much moisture is in the soil. >> did you say a neutron probe? >> it is not words that roll off the tongue. >> if you look we are astrophysicist. i think people would be surprised how much technology and data our farmers use. they love data but little of forming, they love tractors and trucks but they love data. >> what data says that provider? >> adventures of the moisture in the soil.
the neck and determine irrigation practices. it helps them not waste a single drop of water. >> you up and putting multystem ability measures into place. do you have any ways to quantify the benefit of what you are doing? ⌞> we looked at different scenarios of practices on the 20 different payment ranges. the research able to measure how much co2 those scenarios were sequestering in the ground, if we were eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions. in just one year, just those 20 pilot ranches, we were able to lower co2 emissions by the equivalent of almost 5.4 million miles driven by a car. >> you have entered all these baby redwoods along the field. >> all of our farmers are looking at where they can do even more to sequester, take advantage of the entire landscape. you will see there is a whole row of redwood trees. they are quite young now but as the roots going to the ground, they are starting to do their job as being little fighters in
the global climate crisis. >> explain what that means. >> when you have growing objects, they are able to put carbon back into the soil. if you are not moving the soil, it stays in there. you are helping reduce and pull down out of the atmosphere into the earth. >> carissa, one is a luxury item. why does this matter? >> these farmers, who have declared that they are farmers first and foremost, today they are forming wine grapes. down the road, it might be something else. a lot of these farmers have seen multiple diversity in their crops since their families have been farming. maybe not them but the generation before them. that is about preserving agriculture. i think we should all be asking questions about how everything is created and produced. that is where we are at now and it is an important question. one had a luxury good? maybe even more importantly a look very good. we have a huge responsibility. >> the struggles we face with climate change often feel so heavy. it makes us truly consider the
issues we are dealing with as accidental threats, right? so, when we feel so heavy about climate change, it does seem there is something in this program that offers hope. >> absolutely. when you realize you can start locally, and you probably have to start locally and it is going to be me making a difference in what i do, it will be farmers making a difference, that is one small thing but that is a win. if you add up all the small things, you get the big win. i think th is the hope. whenever you feel overwhelmed, know that there is a group of farmers here, this really small place in california, that are doing their st every day and thinking about it every day, about how they can do better. if we all start to adopt that mentality, we are going to get on our way. we will be on the journey. >> this week's something úbeautiful is a visit to a serene garden in the east bay. the hayward japanese gardens follow traditional design principles while using california native stone and plans to create its manicured paths and scalded trees.
such a refreshing and restorative images of nature. that is the end of our show for tonight. you can find kqed newsroom online or on twitter or email us and you can reach me on social media at @priyadclemens. thank you for joining us. we will see you right back here next friday night. have a great weekend. ♪
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