Have you been enjoying this balmy weather lately with trips to the beach, hiking Bay trails, or soaking up some sun at your favorite park? It’s January and there is still no sign of our seasonal Bay Area rain. You know, the rain that begins in November and pours until early spring?
Last Saturday’s rainstorm brought a mere .01 inch of rain to our thirsty region. In fact, this is the driest season recorded in California history, and we are seeing the effects of this weather reach far beyond sunny days, dry gardens and parched parks.
Dry weather has enormous impacts for agriculture and viticulture, and it creates dangerous fire conditions, reduces tourism and the all important snowpack in the Sierras that we depend on for our drinking water. The drought is also threatening fish by preventing anadromous fish like salmon from being able to navigate to their home streams to spawn.
Farmers are choosing to cut back on growing and keeping livestock because the cost of keeping everything watered could skyrocket, if the rain stays away. And local water agencies are considering rate hikes and mandatory conservation measures in anticipation of a continued reduction in water supply.
Those of you who are of a certain age will recall one of the most vivid historical examples of drought in California in 1976 and 1977. Rainfall during those years was extremely low. The 1976-1977 drought had an enormous impact on human systems in California and garnered much media attention because of these impacts— from the temporary cessation of agricultural activities in some parts of the Central Valley to the construction of an emergency water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge when local reservoirs ran almost completely dry. This drought event led to significant changes in water management practices in the state of California, including the development of more aggressive contingency plans for relatively short-term (1—2 year) periods with extremely low precipitation.
What can you do?
Conserve Water. Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, put a container in your kitchen sink and bathtub and use the overflow to water your indoor plants or garden.
Ditch Your Lawn. Did you know that Contra Costa County will pay you to get rid of your lawn? Homeowners can earn up to a $500 rebate for replacing their thirsty lawns with water-efficient landscaping. Click here for more information about this innovative program.
Support recycled water projects in a local, regional and state level. Install a rainwater capture system to store rainwater at your home when it does finally rain once again.