The giant wholesaler that provides drinking water for half the California population has drained two-thirds of its stored supplies as the state contends with a punishing drought, officials said Monday.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s January order to cut state-government water use 20 percent rippled through the bureaucracy early this year as high-level officials rushed to find ways to conserve.

Secret California water bill negotiations have a “55 percent to 60 percent chance” of success during the fast-fading 113th Congress, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said Thursday.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday enacting sweeping new regulations on groundwater pumping in California, making the state the last in the West to regulate the practice.

California – long considered the “Wild West” where groundwater is concerned – appears poised for major changes. Three laws recently passed by the Legislature give local agencies broad power to restrict groundwater pumping when necessary and even impose criminal penalties and fines equivalent to a misdemeanor.

As California’s prolonged drought stretches into another autumn, debates have intensified over how to balance competing water needs: urban vs. rural; people vs. fish; north state vs. south. Against that backdrop, The Sacramento Bee spoke with a trio of local water experts about what the drought means for the Sacramento area and how the region should adapt and respond. This is the second installment in our series.

A majority of likely voters supports the $7.5 billion water bond on the Nov. 4 ballot, but most Californians still know nothing about it, according to a new Field Poll.

Seventeen California cities and counties urged Congress on Tuesday to complete drought legislation that’s currently hung up in closed-door negotiations.

California is still a long way from meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a 20 percent cut in water consumption during the drought, but it is making progress. In July, statewide water use dropped 7.5 percent, according to new data.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, sponsored a bill Tuesday to block the federal government from paying part of the cost of building two water diversion tunnels, though Bera and other lawmakers last year said that it was unrealistic to expect any federal money to flow to the project.

Small, nonfarm businesses in 39 California counties – including Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo – have until Sept. 23 to apply for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Preventing future water shortages will require a three-pronged approach that includes investment in infrastructure; improving the balance between north state and south state needs; and addressing the projected effects of climate change.

Gov. Jerry Brown has asked all Californians to cut their water use 20 percent during the drought. But residents consume vastly different quantities of water, which means conservation will be easier for some than for others. Experts say water consumption comes down to three main factors: local climate, household size and income level.

California could soon become the last state in the West to regulate water pulled from beneath the earth, with the Legislature on Friday advancing an unprecedented groundwater-management strategy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned that the Delta water tunnel project could violate the Clean Water Act and may increase harm to endangered fish, according to a formal comment letter released by the agency Thursday.

The state's proposal to build two giant water diversion tunnels in the Delta will be delayed for months because parts of the environmental document need rewriting, officials announced Wednesday.

Secret negotiations over a California water bill are nearing a make-or-break moment, after a long, dry summer that’s tested some political alliances.

Do plant choices really make a difference in water use? See for yourself in these 500-square-foot sample landscapes.

Young saplings in particular are susceptible to stress, but watch out for those big coastal redwoods.

The annual grape crush at UC Davis’ campus winery kicked off early Thursday, weeks before most winemaking students will return for classes, because this summer’s drought moved up the harvest season.

Thanks to California’s chronic drought and watering restrictions, there’s no shortage of dry, dusty-brown lawns. And that’s led to a growth in business for a specialty remedy: lawn painting.

A battle is brewing over water supplies in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State and federal agencies that operate major California dams have asked for an investigation into whether Delta property owners are diverting too much water for their crops, effectively taking water that doesn’t belong to them.

A study by UC researchers has found that California has allocated at least five times more water rights than nature can deliver. The rivers under the most strain, the research indicates, are virtually all that drain into the Central Valley, including the Sacramento, Feather, Yuba, American, Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers.

Low water levels at Folsom Lake are causing an increase in air pollution from the $900 million Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway project.

One year after California and Nevada resolved a long-standing feud over development around Lake Tahoe, John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, arrived at a summit near the water’s edge Tuesday and said “peace is at hand.”

With a fish net in one hand and backpack in the other, UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle set out across the dry Sierra foothills Thursday to look for a fish he feared was destined for extinction because of drought.

Construction crews are pouring a lot of water on the site of the new Sacramento Kings arena. But not as much as you might think.

Water clarity at Lake Tahoe declined slightly 2013, but officials say the lake remains on a trend of long-term improvements.

California voters will be asked to authorize $7.5 billion to bolster the state’s water supply, infrastructure and ecosystems in November, as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday struck a long-sought deal to move a new water bond to the ballot.

West Sacramento is restricting outdoor watering in response to the state’s historic drought.

As California lawmakers sped toward a vote on a new water bond on Wednesday, Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown extended a new $7.5 billion offer in hopes of securing necessary Republican votes.

Four months after Roseville declared mandatory water cutbacks of 20 percent, the city announced this week it was reaching only 18 percent.

Scrambling to place a new water bond before voters, California’s legislative leaders on Monday converged on a $7.195 billion proposal and carved out more time to finish it by delaying a looming electoral deadline.

The city of Roseville is hosting a gardening workshop Saturday, Aug. 16, aimed at reducing water use for landscaping.

Sacramento exceeded its water conservation goal in the month of July, as residents and business owners cut their water consumption 22 percent.

Water levels in wells on the UC Davis campus have declined dramatically in recent months because of the ongoing drought in California, prompting campus officials to spend $50,000 to deepen one pump and install new monitoring devices.

A historic Mississippi paddle boat that ran aground in Lake Tahoe was freed Tuesday, leaving officials with rising concerns about the lake’s dropping water levels.

A century-old water intake on the Sacramento River in Yolo County is making way for a new facility designed to protect threatened and endangered fish species even as it diverts millions of gallons for the cities of Davis and Woodland.

Gov. Jerry Brown, pressing his case Tuesday for a smaller water bond on the November ballot, criticized the existing, $11.1 billion bond as “pork-laden” and “with a price tag beyond what’s reasonable or affordable.”

Legislators return from summer recess today to a mountain of unfinished business. They have until the end of the month to decide whether to pass bills and send them to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Watering restrictions are turning lawns brown around the region and could also weaken trees, arborists warn.

A federal appeals court has delivered a big victory to a small water district in California’s parched San Joaquin Valley.

On the San Joaquin Valley's west side, scientists are making more water from tainted farm drainage.

As platoons of people descended on Brown’s Ravine in January to see the exposed gold rush town, Ken Christensen figured his 670 dock slots might not float boats at all this summer. The rains came and saved the season – somewhat.

New state regulations on water conservation formally took effect today, banning all Californians from hosing off sidewalks and driveways, irrigating yards so much that it causes runoff, and other prohibitions.

California wildlife officials are asking the public to help watch for sick waterfowl that may be suffering because of the drought. Avian botulism is more likely to spread when birds cluster in small pockets of water. Already, hundreds of dead birds have been reported at three locations across the state, including the canal that bisects Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood.

Old Sacramento’s Gold Rush Days, hosted over the Labor Day weekend since 2000, have been canceled because of the drought, city tourism officials announced Monday.

California water agencies with mandatory water conservation rules in place were far more likely to reduce water conservation, according to data gathered by the state. The numers also show that Northern California cities have done a better job conserving water so far this year than their neighbors in the south.

With California in a severe drought, the State Water Resources Control Board ruled last week that some cases of water waste could be treated as criminal infractions.

The new criminal water waste rule adopted by California this week also applies to government agencies, but no one is sure how the penalty will be enforced.

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