Site icon S.D. Gates

Drought – Dry, dusty, depressing, debilitating

Hearst pool Drought – It is only going to get worse. I am not pessimistic about many things, but I know we are about to enter a really dry and hot summer here in the Central Valley.  We had a teasing of rain this winter.  A report on the news the other night said the snow pack in the Sierras is 95% below what it is supposed to be at this time of year.  And we are now out of our rainy season – we usually get rain from November to March and then nothing in the summer.

The Central Valley of California is called “Fruit Basket of the World”.  Everywhere you look, there are orchards and grapevines and fields of strawberries and pretty much every type of vegetable you could possibly want.  In the spring, the orchards are hues of pinks and deep reds, mile after mile, and when the late March winds blow, the blossom petals fill the air, and swirl with the gusts, forming double helixes of petals.

This last winter, it looked like we were going to get some desperately needed rain.  That’s all anyone ever talked about.  We all would watch the weather reports, the barometric pressure, the cloud formations, in hopes that the storm coming in, was going to stick around for a while and provide us with the anticipated precipitation.  But none of the storms ever amounted to much.  All the low pressure fronts were pushed up and over to the East Coast (we were jealous of their precipitation). Here we are at the beginning of April.  We have all lost hope of any additional rain, anyone that has lived here for any amount of time, knows that dreaming of rain after March is just wishful thinking.  When we last drove by the reservoir, on our way to Gilroy (the garlic capital of the world – just so you know), the reservoir was almost empty, the water level is at the lowest I have ever seen.

There’s word around town, the watering restrictions are going to be even tighter this year.  Last year we were able to water two days a week, which really wasn’t that much. Based on the water running down the storm drains in the morning, people were not really abiding by the restrictions. When the day time temperatures in July and August reach over 110 degrees, the plants do not do well with infrequent watering.  This year, they (the proverbial “they”) are threatening to fine people with green lawns, and there will be no watering.  Everything will be allowed to die.  What the heck? My entire garden will be gone, and that is a really depressing thought.  I wonder if they will allow the huge Sequoia in the back yard to die as well, hopefully its root system is deep enough to hang on (I’m very proud of the Sequoia).

I also wonder if everyone in Los Angeles will be under the same watering restrictions, because I didn’t see that last year.  When I was at the Writer’s Digest conference in LA in August, from my balcony at the hotel, my husband and I watched a man spray the pool deck, cleaning it, for over an hour.  Are all the golf courses going to be allowed to die?  What about car washes, water parks, Disney – are they all going to fall under the water restrictions?

Spring is an exciting time.  It is the time the garden is tidied up in preparation for the summer bedding plants.  It is a time when there is color in the garden beds, when all the browns of winter transform into a magnificent kaleidoscope of brilliant colors.  But not this year.  We get to look forward to browner and browner and then dead.

But it isn’t just about my garden, or anyone else’s garden.  Jobs will be lost, from landscapers to gardeners to the migrant farm workers.  Entire towns will become destitute as their citizens will be without jobs and money.  On a broader scope, I suspect the produce production will plummet, the produce that feeds the entire nation, vegetables and fruit will become exorbitantly expensive and unaffordable.  Or think about this – last year small towns in the Central Valley were completely out of water.  Bottled water was being donated to help.  Families had no running water in their homes, none to do laundry or cook or even bathe their children in.  Imagine how awful that must be.

I have thought about how this could all be avoided.  Of course the most plausible solution would be to get more rain, but that isn’t something anyone has control over.  Then I was thinking, what if they created a pipeline, like the Alaskan pipeline, and transported water from places with surplus.  Then I thought wouldn’t it be great just to teleport water from places of water abundance (like they teleport people in Star Trek). Or what if all the half-empty water bottles around the country were sent here to fill up the reservoir?  Or what if the California government had some foresight when this all kind of started about 4 years ago and built that desalination plant in Santa Barbara or wherever it is.  We need it this year, now – not in 4 years when we will have rain again.  Here is another thought – empty all the pools – didn’t they do that back in the 70s (remember Lords of Dogtown – empty swimming pools turned into skateboarding sites)? Oh, this is all so frustrating.

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