California draught

U.S. Drought Monitor Updates Conditions for California: Improved, but Still Severe

The U.S. Drought Monitor released updated ratings for California’s drought today, showing improvements to the state’s classifications of “extreme” and “exceptional drought” but the state’s classification for “severe drought” remains steady at 94%.

The U.S. Drought Monitor also reported that reservoirs statewide remain well below normal and the state’s snowpack also is far below normal because recent storms have delivered more rain than snow.

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Drought monitor data showed 80% of the state in extreme drought and 55% in exceptional drought. New data shows that 78% of the state is extreme drought and 32% in exceptional drought – a difference of -2% and -23%, respectively.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this week’s storms in central and northern California have yielded between 4 to 12 inches of rain and conditions in the state’s major central and northern California reservoirs have also improved by 6 to 10 percentage points, compared to Nov. 28 values.

managing oak trees

DWR and UC Davis Encourage Homeowners to Prepare Trees for Dry Winter

DWR, UC Davis, Tree Foundation Encourage Homeowners to Prepare Trees for Dry Winter

California’s drought is having a visible impact on lawns throughout the state as homeowners reduce their outdoor watering. Lawns can be brought back to life relatively quickly, but once a tree dies, its loss is irreversible.

As the amount of sunlight falling on trees is reduced with the change in the seasons, trees go into dormancy and require less water than during the hot summer months. But in exceptionally dry conditions, a tree may not have enough stored moisture to survive California’s drought.

Representatives of the Sacramento Tree Foundation, California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) at UC Davis, UC Cooperative Extension and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) agree that even a return of normal rainfall this winter might not sustain trees without special care and watering.

“We are seeing locations in California where trees are dying because they haven’t been watered adequately,” said CCUH Director Dave Fujino. “While homeowners are trying to save water by letting lawns die, they need to continue watering their nearby trees.”

Chuck Ingels, U.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Advisor, urged homeowners to follow these steps:

· Dig into the soil 6 to 8 inches at a tree’s drip line – the area immediately below the widest part of the leaf canopy; if the soil feels dry and crumbly, it needs water.

· Apply water slowly and uniformly using low-volume application equipment, such as a soaker hose that circles the tree at the drip line. Allow water to saturate the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.

· Allow the soil to dry between waterings; for most mature trees, one or two deep waterings per month is adequate. Fewer waterings – and perhaps none – are needed during the cooler and potentially wet winter months.

· Add mulch (leaves or wood chips) between the trunk and drip line to retain the soil’s moisture.

· Reduce competition for water by removing weeds and grass within 4 feet of a tree’s trunk.

Anne Fenkner, Greenprint Regional Coordinator, Sacramento Tree Foundation, said trees are essential to the health and beauty of residences and entire communities throughout the state. “Trees provide food for people and animals and shade that helps make hot climates livable,” she said. “We owe it to ourselves, our children, their children and the trees themselves to help them get through this extraordinarily dry period. When water supplies are limited, priority should be given to trees, then shrubs and perennials and lastly to lawn and annuals.”

Julie Saare-Edmonds, DWR’s Landscape Program Manager, said Californians are responding to the call in January by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. to reduce their water usage by 20%.

But if a homeowner has allowed a lawn to dry up during the drought, trees growing in that lawn may not be getting enough water and may need more to help them transition into winter dormancy.

Anne Fenkner, Sacramento Tree Foundation, said trees have varying water needs depending on their species, age, size, slope of the ground beneath them and other factors. Homeowners can nurture their trees and improve their health by understanding tree care principles:

· Older established trees may be starved for water as well as younger trees. The low rainfall last winter did not replenish the soil moisture adequately and they may need a moisture boost before winter.

· Avoid fertilizing trees now; it will stimulate new growth at the wrong time of year.

· When planting new trees, choose species wisely. Consult a local urban forestry group such as the Sacramento Tree Foundation or check the Arboretum All-Stars list at UC Davis. We don’t know how long the drought will last, so consider selecting drought-resistant varieties and delaying planting until drought conditions improve. If the drought worsens in 2015, investments in new trees may be lost.

· Improve the quality of the soil in which the trees grow. Aerate lawns so the roots of mature trees have good access to water and oxygen.

· Consult the Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners or a certified arborist if you have questions about the health of a mature tree.

Additional advice on caring for trees can be found at these websites:

California River Awards

Friends of the River – California River Awards – 2014 Mark Dubois Honoree

WBA staff member, Cheryl Buckwalter, was one of the distinguished honorees this year for the Mark Dubois award – Friends of the River. Congratulations Cheryl!
 Water Management
“Our second honoree is a true leader in landscape water conservation, a sector that accounts for more than half of total urban water use.

Cheryl Buckwalter has dedicated herself personally and professionally to helping Californians grow beautiful “River Friendly” landscapes that use minimal water and reduce runoff. With her experience as a landscape designer and Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor, Cheryl is taking on America’s largest irrigated crop: lawn grass.

Today, as the Executive Director of Eco Landscape California, Cheryl is transforming landscapes to need little or no irrigation, greatly reducing the amount of water we need to pull out of rivers and aquifers. Cheryl provides practical, user-friendly training, plans, referrals, and outreach to help Californians create healthy, beautiful, vibrant urban landscapes while conserving water, reducing yard waste, and preventing pollution of our air and rivers. She developed Eco-Friendly Landscape Design Plans for the New California Landscape—a free, on-line “package” of landscape and irrigation designs, comprehensive plant profiles, irrigation schedules, and maintenance practices to demonstrate watershed-based models for sustainability, resource-efficiency and protection, and environmental stewardship.

Her work has resulted in homeowners and municipalities implementing low-water use landscapes across central California. Cheryl has collaborated with countless agencies, land developers, and non-profit organizations to teach about, and implement, water-efficient landscaping including Roseville’s “Cash for Grass” landscape incentive program

The drought has greatly expanded her audience as her work has been widely reported by media outlets throughout the state. She is now leveraging this exposure and her experience to accelerate the pace of change toward more sustainable landscapes across the state.”

March For Water

California Water Year 2014 Among Driest Years on Record

California’s water year 2014 – which ended Sept. 30 – will go down as one of the driest years in the state’s recorded history, resulting in a dismally low 5% of water deliveries from the State Water Project and thousands of acres of cropland idled, according to newly released figures from the California Department of Water Resources.

Water year 2014 is ending with less than 60% of average precipitation and is the third consecutive year the state has battled record low precipitation. It is the fourth driest year on record exceeded only by 1977, 1924 and 1931. As a result of the lack of rain, on Sept.1 the state’s major reservoirs collectively held only 57% of average storage for the date, or about 36% of capacity, according to DWR figures.

Forecasts are unclear as to whether 2015 will bring more rain. The federally run Central Valley Project has reduced deliveries down to zero for some junior rights holders.

“The immediate certainty is that day-to-day conservation – wise, sparing use of water – is essential as we face the possibility of a fourth dry winter,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency in January and called for a 20% reduction in water use. Water agencies up and down the state have responded to the call for conservation, adopting mandatory water restrictions and ramping up their conservation messaging. Many communities have exceeded the 20% reduction in water usage over last year’s figures.

Still, some communities are scrambling for drinking water and on September 19, the Governor streamlined the delivery of water to families in need.

Many experts believe the deepening drought has increased the severity of the fire season, with fires spreading more rapidly and farther due to dry conditions.

Officials with DWR note that while cumulative reservoir storage in 1977 – California’s driest year on record – was approximately five million acre-feet less than today, the state’s population has increased dramatically since that time so the state’s water now must serve far more people.

DWR and the Association of California Water Agencies urge all Californians to conserve water by following the advice and tips found at

DWR’s California Data Exchange Center websites show current water conditions at the state’s largest reservoirs and weather stations.



Almost 60 percent of the state is facing exceptional drought.

California is drying up.

“This is a big deal,” California Governor Jerry Brown said at a ceremony Tuesday as he signed into law a trio of bills regulating, for the first time, the state’s groundwater use. As of Thursday, almost 60 percent of the state is facing “exceptional drought,” the most severe level of dryness measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But if you’re not living in a community dependent on bottled water rations, farming land that’s projected to lose $800 million in crop revenue or watching raging wildfires ravage your drought-parched town, the historic California drought may still feel like little more than a headline.

To fully grasp how desperate California is for relief, we’ve created six before-and-after GIFs that will show you how badly the drought has dehydrated the state in just the last three years.

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels near Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, and much lower levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels near Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, and much lower levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible behind the Folsom Dam at Folsom Lake on July 20, 2011, in El Folsom, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014.

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014.


This article was originally produced by Lydia O'Connor and Chris McGonigal from the Huffington Post.
golf course consulting

Performance Review reveals Efficient Landscape Division at the Village

laguna-woods1William Baker and Associates LLC (WBA) has conducted a Landscape Division Performance Review for Laguna Woods Village. The review began on July 1, 2013 and continued until the submission of the Final Report on October 25, 2013. During this period of time WBA spent in excess of 400 hours on the various project tasks. This includes many days on the property observing work, meeting with senior staff, touring different areas of the operation, collecting data and documents, and conducting our own tests. Additional time was spent conducting staff interviews, doing research, and writing the report.

The following is the Executive Summary found in the Landscape Department Performance Review, Page 4:

The Landscape Department is working at an excellent level of efficiency. The principles and best management practices either meet or exceed anything we see in the private sector. Resources available to the Department are indeed being utilized in an economical and efficient manner. The standards for quality are superb, and there is constant attention to improving both how quickly and how well jobs are completed. It is our studied and professional opinion that policies, standards, and procedures comply with those set forth by both the governing body of the Association and the governmental regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over Laguna Woods Village.

Staffing levels are appropriate to support the Division’s various areas of responsibility. Staff morale is high, as determined by closed session review (no management present) with 34 employees on three different days. The crews’ comments and criticisms in these sessions were mild. Conversations were also held with numerous other crew members while they were performing their assigned tasks. Additionally, a meeting was held with the supervisors from all the different areas.

Although one of these mild crew criticisms was that they were slightly understaffed, we do not feel this is sufficient reason to add employees. Being just slightly understaffed promotes performance and creativity in accomplishing the task at hand. Other staff concerns were equally low key. Of course, when working with this many individuals over this size property with such a wide range of departmental tasks things can and do go wrong. These day-to-day operational challenges are present in all similar departments, and usually to a much greater extent than we see at Laguna Woods Village.

Golf Course Review CaliforniaInternal review of the Department is a constant and continual process. There is a wealth of documentation on how they are performing. It is less clear how much the Board desires to learn about the internal workings of the Landscape Department, since there is a distinct difference between setting policy and conducting operations. Oversight by the Board would certainly appear to be at an appropriate level, since the Department is operating very effectively.

Most likely the Board is interested in receiving accurate and easily understandable information. We would conclude that the information coming out of the Department to the Board is accurate. More challenging is how to provide reports and conduct presentations that are clear and comprehensive, without getting mired in the vast amount of detail that goes into formulating the information.

Click here to read the full Landscape Division Performance Review

Click here to view the PowerPoint Presentation presented to GRF by WBA (Note: this is a very large file and may take a few minutes to download)

The full presentation will be replayed on Channel 6 November 6 at 6 p.m. and November 8 at 2:30 p.m.

Project Management Fundamentals

Irrigation Efficiency Study

William Baker and Associates LLC is the contractor for an irrigation efficiency study that includes over 30 sites located across six geographic and climatic regions of California. It is sponsored by the Department of Water Resources and administered by  the University of California.  It is titled the Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor Study and its objective is to examine the potential for reducing applied water, while maintaining a healthy and attractive landscape.  The study documents the performance and appearance of landscape plants grown under a variety of species mixes, landscape irrigation technology and irrigation practices, microclimates, and densities in several climatic zones throughout California.
The study is expected to run through 2014.  Site cooperators include cities, universities, corporate campuses, park districts, golf courses, demonstration gardens, and large common area landscapes.  Study regions include Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley, The Central Coast, the South Coast, the Los Angeles Basin, the Inland Empire, the Coachella Valley.  Data collection includes testing for distribution uniformity, precipitation rates, metering and documenting all water use, soil and water testing, and inventorying all plant species in the study zones.  The findings are expected to be instrumental in the determination of future horticultural irrigation use regulations for California.