Best of the West: California’s alarming snowpack, “Summer of Smoke” continues, breweries conserving water

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting January 1, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Featured image credit: Michael Macor, The San Francisco Chronicle 

The first California snowpack measurement of the season took place on Wednesday, and the results are cause for concern. Some areas, such as Lake Tahoe, report 29 percent of average snowpack, while other are reporting as little as 3 percent of the early January average.

“Clearly, November and December have been disappointing,” said Frank Gehrke, Chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program.

Oregon is also reporting low precipitation and snowpack, and in Colorado, the snowpack is tied for the worst start in 33 years and halfway through the snow season, utilities are working to preserve water in storage in case deep snow doesn’t arrive. Elsewhere in the West, Idaho and Montana are reporting the most snow in the region, with some areas above 100 percent of normal

Save Water, Drink Beer? Until recently, the brewing process used an estimated five to six gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer. As drought and water shortages become the new normal, breweries in Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, California and more are finding ways to reduce their water consumption. The 2017 WGA Annual Meeting in Montana included a panel on the economic impacts of craft brewing in the West, read about it here.

Destructive Wildfires: President Trump declared a major disaster in California this week in response to the largest fire recorded in state history, the Thomas Fire, which continues to burn a month after it began. Parts of the state and the region may never look the same following increasingly destructive blazes, and smoke from California fires has been traced all the way to Europe. In Montana, at least one area is still recovering from the impacts of the “Summer of Smoke.”

Charging Ahead: Electric vehicles are gaining momentum in the West, but questions remain about where to build charging stations and who will pay for them. In Colorado, agencies and companies are working to solve the issue of the “valley of death.” Regionally, eight western governors have signed an MOU to improve EV corridors.

Ad Astra: Western states are perfectly positioned to view a number of upcoming celestial events. A total lunar eclipse, when the full moon passes through Earth's shadow, should be visible throughout the western U.S. on Jan. 31. See the other upcoming starry events.

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