By Sean Breslin
10 August 2015
(weather.com) – One of America’s 10 largest cities is swiftly losing its river, and the loss is having major effects on the ecosystem around it.
The San Jose Mercury News said eight miles of the 14-mile long Guadalupe River that runs through San Jose, California, has now dried up, another victim of the years-long California drought that is already regarded as the worst in the Golden State’s recorded history.
Even worse, the city had finally taken steps to restore wildlife to the river after years of neglect, but with no water left in the stream, all those fish and birds are either dead or gone again. Because there’s no state agency that keeps a count of the fish and other species, there’s no way to know if they migrated elsewhere or just died.
“I’m heartbroken,” Leslee Hamilton, executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, told the Mercury News. “We’ve been seeing a great increase in the number of birds and wildlife in the area. The timing of this is just devastating.”
The reasons for the disappearance of more than half the Guadalupe are both man-made and natural. The drought has depleted much of the state’s water, and that has led to lower lake and river levels all over California.
But there’s another reason why parts of the Guadalupe are dry, the Mercury News said. When water levels go down, state lawmakers must approve additional water releases from reservoirs to keep the rivers flowing. Environmentalists want the water releases to continue in areas where animals are in danger of going extinct.
However, others say humans are more important, and in such dire circumstances, we should worry less about saving the animals. […]
Underground, there are even more problems. According to the Washington Post, more groundwater is being used as a substitution for the water farmers were pulling from the rivers and lakes that are now dried up. As that groundwater is extracted, the land sinks, and the aquifer beneath the surface can’t be replenished, the report added. It’s causing serious, irreversible damage to the water table and the land on which California’s residents live.
As of Aug. 4, 46 percent of California is in the worst category of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Most of San Jose is in “extreme drought,” the second-worst drought category.
“Since January, San Jose has measured 3.43 inches of rain, which is 6.46 inches below average,” said weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam. “Below-average rainfall was recorded for January through April, and this January was the only January on record to see no measurable rainfall. The average rainfall in January is 2.99 inches, one of the wettest months of the year.” [more]
By Paul Rogers
8 August 2015
SAN JOSE – On a recent afternoon at Guadalupe River Park in the heart of downtown, a couple strolled hand-in-hand, a mother pushed her toddler in a stroller, and soft breezes rustled the leaves of stately trees near the home of the San Jose Sharks.
But something was missing: the river.
The river that runs through America’s 10th-largest city has dried up, shriveling a source of civic pride that had welcomed back trout, salmon, beavers and other wildlife after years of restoration efforts. Over the past two months, large sections of the Guadalupe have become miles of cracked, arid gray riverbed. Fish and other wildlife are either missing or dead, casualties of California’s relentless drought.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Leslee Hamilton, executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that runs educational and community programs along the river.
“We’ve been seeing a great increase in the number of birds and wildlife in the area,” she said. “The timing of this is just devastating.”
The Guadalupe is in worse shape than many California waterways, but it is hardly alone.
The state’s rivers and creeks are withering and in some cases disappearing entirely after four years of historically dry weather — the focus of the latest installment of this newspaper’s series, “A State of Drought.”
In the agriculture-rich Central Valley, the drought has slowed plans to release more water to the San Joaquin River to bring the over-tapped waterway back to life. Up north in Humboldt County, salmon are at risk of going high and dry in the tributaries of the Eel River.
“It’s grim,” said Matt Clifford, an attorney with Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit that has its California headquarters in Emeryville. “This is not good for wildlife or fish.”
Across the state, environmentalists are battling state, federal and local water agencies, arguing that more water should be released from reservoirs to save species in danger of extinction. In many cases, farmers and cities are clamoring for the same water, arguing that people must come first in an emergency.
“At the end of the day, there just is not enough water to maintain sufficient releases,” said Michelle Leicester, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Nobody has an exact count of how many streams have run dry. Although some California rivers have gauges, they’re used mostly to monitor floods, not low water levels. And many remote creeks and tributaries that are vital to fish have no gauges installed by state or federal agencies at all.
“Every stream is slowly going dry. But it’s tough to give names and numbers,” said Gordon Becker, a fisheries scientist with the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, a nonprofit in Oakland. “The system is hopelessly inadequate.” [more]