By now, everyone knows that California is in the midst of an epic drought. As a California native, I can tell anyone who is interested that we have not had a fraction of the rain we should and would have had even 5 years ago. In Northern California the winter’s have always been rainy in the lower elevations and snowy the higher up you go. This past winter, from October 2014 to about February 2015 my area got only four-4!- real rainstorms where in years past we would not have had a NON-rainy day for the exact same period. Lakes and rivers are running low, creeks are running dry and it is showing absolutely no signs of improving any time soon.
According to an article by the L.A. Times on March 12th, California has no contingency plan for major extended drought other than to enter emergency mode, as we did last January, and stay that way indefinitely. In the same article it is declared that NASA data indicates that California only has about a year’s worth of water left in our reservoirs! The state has been losing about 12 million acre feet of water a year since 2011 when the drought started and more than half of that is groundwater. We are literally running dry.
What left me even more troubled was when I started researching more on my own. I visited the government website for information on California’s drought and found the top story posted on March 3. According to the State Water Board,, in what is said to be the driest January on record since California record keeping began in the 1800’s, water use increased slightly! Last summer, when water restrictions were finally implemented, so many large companies just continued to use what they pleased at water time of day they wanted to and simply forked over the money for the fines they received. As though it is really about the money! The fines were meant to be a deterrent for water wasters, not a minor speed bump to be quickly forgotten.
While individuals and small business owners let their lawns and flower gardens die, big businesses had lush green grass in front of their buildings. When everyone in Lake County was letting their yards dry up to conserve water and avoid hefty water fees, vineyards were using their sprinkler systems every single day throughout the hottest months of year. Maybe I would not be so upset by that, after all, the wine industry in Northern California is a huge part of the economy. But were they watering their grapevines in the early morning or evening as recommended to prevent too much waste? No, in fact, several times I drove past fields of grapevines at the peak of the day’s heat and saw the sprinklers going full blast, soaking the fields at the worst time of day to water plants. That is wasteful as well as being extremely oblivious to a serious issue.
It is a scary time to live in California right now, knowing that summer is rapidly approaching (probably an early one too if recent weather is any indication) and fire season rapidly approaches with it. We are drier than we have ever been in recorded history right now, it was is supposed to be mostly wet seasons right now. What do we have to look forward to this July and August when wildfires become the biggest concern for all Californians? Where will be a year from now if we don’t get anymore rain this year than we did last year?
Of course, California’s agricultural industry will be missed by the whole nation when the farmers cannot water their crops anymore. California produces nearly all of the apricots, almonds. nectarines, pistachios and so many more. You can read the whole list for yourself at the Economy of California page here .