A Class Based Drought


Drought - road in heat

I went on an expedition today, in order to document photographically what is happening to the Central Valley of California during the drought we are enduring presently. I hoped I could share with you what it looks like to be in the midst of an extreme drought (because it seems so many of my blogging friends are wading through a rainy summer this year). However, in the process of taking photos I have unearthed something so disturbing and disheartening, that I am flummoxed. It turns out this is a drought particular only to certain socioeconomic groups (of which I am one).

Our city government has advised us we are only to water twice a week. Unfortunately, with the daily temperature routinely above 100 degrees and the humidity under 20%, the plants and the trees are not surviving this meager watering schedule. And so the trees and the lawns are dying. I really could care less about the lawns, but trees must be cherished. Having lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming – where there are very few trees, just prairies, tumbleweed and pronghorns, I appreciate ALL trees. Our city government is sending forth this propaganda, “Don’t Frown on Brown, Brown is a Responsible Lawn”. But homeowners are letting everything die, not just the lawns.

A "Responsible" Lawn

A “Responsible” Lawn

Don't frown on brown!

Don’t frown on brown!

South of our city, entire towns have run out of water. Those that can afford to, are digging their dry wells deeper, in hopes of finding water. Those that can’t afford to (it costs about $30,000 to dig deeper into a well, from what I understand) no longer have any water at all. I went out to some of these smaller towns on my expedition and this is what I found. Abandoned houses, dry canals, dead orchards and brown as far as the eye could see.Drought - dead orchard

Drought - moribund orchard

Drought - empty house

I then went back into town, had to stop for something to drink and I started thinking. Are the fancy people suffering? The people with their rolling lawns, their manicured privet balls and their freshly planted, bedding plants – are they surrounded by brown and dying vegetation? Have the country clubs let their greens become responsible lawns, like the rest of us? I went to find out. I felt like a true investigative journalist taking these photos. This particular country club is surrounded by a 10 foot thick hedge of oleander bushes. It is situated in a neighborhood where the “old money” lives. I had to get out of my car and covertly clamber through the bushes to get these photos. Thought for sure I was going to get caught by water hose wielding security men – but I escaped, undetected.

Covert photo (through Oleander bushes) of pristine golf greens

Covert photo (through Oleander bushes) of pristine golf greens

I then went over to another neighborhood, where all the ridiculously large mansions stand. It turns out they are immune to the watering restrictions as well. Hmmm – this is most curious and annoying. It just proves with enough money, it doesn’t really matter if the upper class abuses our limited resources thereby potentially harming others less fortunate or greedy. What matters most in the fancy people’s minds is that they are free from discomfort, free from eyesores and surrounded by perfection.

Beautiful lawns and gardens

Beautiful lawns and gardens

Are the fancy people above the stringent water restrictions? Take a look at these photos and decide for yourselves.

But – there is hopeful news. The El Nino is building strength in the Pacific. This is the system that brings rain to California from November to March. There is some other type of atmospheric system called a PDO and this may affect the strength of the El Nino. All this meteorological stuff sounds like an anime cartoon, two big bosses, the El Nino and the PDO, fighting it out in the Pacific.

El Nino vs PDO smackdown

El Nino vs PDO smack down

While I am finishing this post, a most unusual thing has occurred. Outside I hear a rumbling in the sky. And then a strange flash sends strips of bright light through the half-opened plantation blinds. I wander to the patio and my family is standing, looking up into the skies. The sun is sending final rays of red, sepia light through the massive clouds before it loses its battle for supremacy to the thunderstorm. And it rains. The rain comes down in sheets, intermittently sideways with the blasts of winds. It has rained and rained and rained. It is still raining 3 hours later.   It never rains here in July. And you know what, the fancy people don’t have dibs on this water, we all get our fair share.

Rain in July?

Rain in July?

61 replies »

  1. Very thought-provoking. Why am I not surprised – money seems to buy anything, except rain… Love this post it shows reality and ends with a truth. Somethings cannot be bought and therefore we all still are equal. I hope you got a good soak of well needed rain.

  2. A very interesting post.. thanks for sharing. I am happy for you that you did get some rain and sad for you that the trees are dying. I am addicted to trees and hate to see them die. Hope you get some more unexpected showers in the future. A golf course… that is green.. is not exactly a priority in my books. Too bad.

    • Hi, my friend!! I know the golf course really irritated me to no end. We are more expecting more rain today – which is so unusual. I will be right over to visit. I haven’t seen you in my reader lately.

      • Hi back 🙂 It is summer and I am getting ready to move so life is taking over and my blog is taking a backseat. Have a great day filled with some more raindrops!

      • My blogging has kind of taken a step back too, not for anything exciting like moving to Egypt – actually I don’t know why it has now that I think about it.

      • I think I am in the mood some days and others, not. Maybe it is a “sociable” thing with me… some days more sociable (writing and commenting) and other days, less sociable. Who knows?

  3. I’ll send our rain your way. 19″ since June 1st is QUITE enough tyvm. And we have clay soil, so there ya go for all the flooding we’ve been having. It is quite sad and down right unconscionable that the govt brown is a good lawn while the rich can play in their lush gardens and green golf courses. Just…REALLY! Wonderful post!

    • Thank-you my friend – we are supposed to get more rain – which is so incredibly unusual for this time of year. 19″ is a lot of rain in almost 2 months. We got 0.34 inches and we think we are in high cotton.

      • Enjoy that .34 inches! Every little bit helps 🙂 I’m so sick of the rain. And my cousin’s house is now unlivable because if the storm that blew through Friday. All because the insurance adjuster said he didn’t need a new roof. And he and Steph are expecting a baby around Christmas. I will send all the rain you want your way. I’ll do my reverse rain dance!

      • Ok – we will take your rain. I think my most recent post was a rain blog. I am sorry about your cousin’s roof – that sucks!!!! I understand if this El Nino thing takes off, we should take most of the precipitation that the East Coast has been getting during the last several winters. Is that where you are?

      • Oh that is right – I remember that now. You guys can get some pretty tremendous storms, and tornadoes – scary!

    • After I had battled with the Oleanders (which as I am sure you know, living in the South and everything, are quite poisonous, which means I was actually risking my life – I was truly so pissed off about how green the greens were. I think it is the first time I have ever been faced with the inequalities the less than rich face. And I was mad!!!!!

      • No I stayed in Klamath California and drove as far down as Eureka and as far up as Coos Bay Oregon. Not as dry as your photos but they said very little rain during their rain season. I will do a rain dance for you all over there!

      • Ooo – I love Coos Bay. Do you know it has some weird atmospheric thing going on because of the way it is situated along the coast, so it is warmer than the surrounding areas. Thanks for the rain dance!!!!!

      • No I did not know that. I just loved the the quaintness of it. We found a little brew pub that brewed their own blend of beers and they all tasted amazing!

      • Yumm!!! I took the boys up to Bandon (further up the coast) and we went crabbing – it was so much fun!!! Love Oregon!!!!

      • My kids fell in love with sand crabs. Won’t touch a single bug at home but were catching sand crabs and wanting to bring them home. They loved the beach. So much fun! Can’t wait to share all my pictures.

      • We caught crabs from the ocean with crab traps and learned which crabs were male and female. We caught a boat load of them and then donated them to a family that was having a reunion crab fest. I felt bad for the crabs. I too, love crabs!!!!

  4. I don’t know how it works in the US but every now and again in the UK if it hasn’t rained for a week or so (or so it seems) the water companies panic and we have “hose pipe bans”. You cannot water the garden, wash the car etc. Businesses are exempt from this and golf courses are counted as being a business so are allowed to water their greens and fairways. However, people who live in posh houses ignore the bans as any fines imposed are small change. Bans in the UK tend not too last long though.

    • Hello my friend. Are you back from your vacation already? Did you have a good time? That’s what the fancy people are saying down in Los Angeles, they don’t care about the bans or the fines, they are going to water anyway. It’s that mindset that really annoys the snot out of me. We are all in this together and when people think they can do whatever because they have money – even when it comes to limited resources we ALL need – that makes me so mad. The only thing I can hope for – is if and when this El Nino hits – we get so much rain – their fancy houses float away into the Pacific (without them in the houses – of course).

  5. Kind of like the sun, it doesn’t only shine on one home or one neighborhood, it shines on everyone. There is enough for everyone when it comes from that Greater Source

    I wonder why the media isn’t on this “water for the rich” news like they are on the 1% and 99% difference. Hmm. Suspect to me.

    Anyway, I hope you continue to get the rains you need, despite it being July.

    • When I started my expedition to document the drought, I had no idea there was such disparity in the watering between neighborhoods. Very disheartening!!!
      They did have something in the news not too long ago about Tom Selleck (you know Magnum P.I) trucking water from a source outside his neighborhood (it turns out it was on the up and up and the media – surprisingly- had it all twisted around. But I bet those mansions down in Beverly Hills don’t have “responsible lawns”. They said there was a 50% chance we might get some rain today – but from the look of the crystal blue skies – I doubt it.

  6. This is again a wonderful post!! And its really sad how people misuse water……when others are suffering and conserving……misusing water like this is so ignorant!!
    But congratulations on the rain!! I hope you get more soon 😀

  7. Very interesting, sad and disturbing too. I have just been to Australia on a farm stay tour with students. The farms have been struggling for water though while we were there the weather was fairly wet and dismal for the first few day. Was a kind of a catch 22, the farm hosts wanted fine weather while the kids were there but were desperate for rain so had to be happy on that front!

    • It’s weird worrying about water – it seems so abundant in some places. I never really worried about it, but this year I get a little envious when I hear everyone is having rainy summers. Oh to hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof – that would be great!!!!

      • My sister and her family are living in California and loving the lifestyle. They finally had a little rain one day and my niece said she was surprised when she realised how much she missed having a rainy day.

  8. Such an important post. Thank you for taking the time to put together such an excellent piece on this really huge not just local but global issue of our water supply.

    • JoHanna – thank-you so much for the taking the time to read my first ever piece of investigative journalism. I had no idea when I started out on my little expedition, that this is where it would lead me to. I thought we were all suffering through this drought together, but apparently not!!!!!

      • I live the high desert in an area where we seasonally go into levels of Water Conservation. Have never seen it go above Strategy One, where days we water, car washing, and pool filling are carefully regulated….and no one in our development has a green grass lawn. I have my strong suspicions that the reality of our true water situation here will not become a big issue here until we inevitably reach the Strategy 2 levels. When that will happen I do not know.

        I wrote the piece below, and like you found myself just getting deeper into the subject of water.

        All my best to you,


      • JoHanna, I read the article and loved it. I never realized until I moved over to California, that there was such a fight for water. Had no idea. I have always lived in areas with an abundance of water (well-except Phoenix). But here in Central California – there is a real battle for water. There are even Water Attorneys – who knew? I hear rumblings around here that the rich Almond Farmers are taking all the water, they have an unfair share – because that is such a money-making crop. But I also read somewhere – it takes one gallon of water to produce 1 (one) almond. I watched this show – the Human Planet – produced by BBC, one episode was on the people that live in the desert. They told of how these women in the Sahara travel 80km to the only well to get water. Amazing stuff. We have towns south of us that are completely out of water – and it is awful for them and their families.

      • Water issues. My new back yard is a virtual blank slate right now and I really am going to extreme desert landscaping. And get smarter about the true water situation locally. I think we must continue to speak out about it. Our blogs an excellent forum to hone our ‘water speak’ skills. Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post.

  9. the rich and well connected don’t have to suffer the same way those without those resources do and in the case of the drought, it’s truly a horrific thing. In the workforce, if someone wants a better life for him or herself and has the motivation and desire, he or she can get better training, learn a new skill, etc. There’s no monopoly on learning, we all have the capability to do it, now whether some want to, that’s a different story. In the case of the drought, where a natural resource isn’t available because it’s use has been restricted by federal or state authorities from some but made available to others by not imposing said restriction because those people are better connected politically or can buy off those restrictions, that is the true tragedy of our society.

    It’s like congress exempting themselves from obamacare or not living under the same rules as the rest of us. It’s a gap in class and money that is manufactured by the calisness, thoughtless selfish attitudes of those who have the ability to game the system in their own favor if that all makes sense.

  10. The restrictions should be evenly enforced, S.D. I wish an assigning editor for a local media outlet would see this blog post and send a visual crew and reporter to prosperous homeowners’ private lawns and club grounds, city and county building properties, and elected officials’ private homes for an extensive report.

    And, let it rain for you and all that need it, my fearless blog-posting friend. <3

  11. I’m late in finding this, but that rain must have felt fantastic. I remember once, at the end of a relatively short drought in Minneapolis seeing a young girl–maybe 8 years old–on the sidewalk, arms out to the sides and face up to the clouds, turning circles in the rain. She was beautiful beyond words.

    • Kids enjoying the rain – what a sight that must have been. It was the strangest thing having such a torrential downpour in July, but so wonderful.

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