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It’s been hot. That isn’t news.
But the heat is, more than ever, unrelenting.
When we talk about heat, we tend to think of how hot it is will get at the hottest point in the day. The National Weather Service and others are starting to point out something that’s gotten less attention: Even the lows are record-setting because they aren’t that low.
On Saturday, for instance, the recorded low temperature in Ramona was 76 degrees, the warmest low point for a July 7 since record-keeping began for that area in 1974. Riverside set a similar daily record going back to 1893, with a low of 82 degrees on Saturday.
Back in 2009, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography noted that nighttime heat waves had become more prevalent in recent decades. The same is true in Arizona, where heat kills scores of people each year.
KQED, the public radio station in the Bay Area, noted that hotter nighttime temperatures also hinder firefighters’ work because “wildfires have not been ‘laying down’ at night as they had in the past.” Not only are firefighters now fighting fires all year, but they don’t have help from cooler nights.
The State Water Resources Control Board is working to finalize new regulations that may reduce the amount of water coming from Northern California into Southern California. This is one of those hard-to-follow, slow-moving regulatory processes that ends up meaning a whole lot once something actually happens.
The point of the draft regulations is to set aside more river water so that rivers can be rivers. For over a century, the waterways of Northern and Central California have been diverted, dammed and drained to supply water for farms and cities there and here in the south. That ends up killing off wildlife, mainly fish, which environmental regulators are now trying to save from extinction.
“Without adequate flow, floodplains don’t flood, migrating fish can’t avoid predators and pollution and salts don’t get diluted and flushed through the ecosystem as efficiently. It’s a cascading problem that is difficult to fix, particularly as climate change causes increasing extremes in precipitation,” the head of the State Water Resources Control Board, Felicia Marcus, wrote in a Sacramento Bee op-ed.
For humans, it means we’ll have less water, because these rivers naturally end up dumping into bays and then the ocean. When we leave more water in the freshwater rivers, we lose it to the salty Pacific.
The Modesto Bee offered its own assessment. IT said the regulations “came as no surprise to local irrigation districts and county and city officials battling what they call a state water grab.”
It’s not totally clear yet how the regulations will affect different water users, including San Diego. Doug Obegi, who oversees the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California river program, wrote that the regulations could end up meaning even less water coming into Southern California, despite a $17 billion water project meant to maintain existing flows.
The proposed regulations come at the same time the region’s other major source of water, the Colorado River, is entering its 18th year of drought.