The hottest topic for this upcoming winter is the long anticipated impact of El Niño on California’s four-year long drought. El Niño is a reoccurring weather pattern that usually occurs every two to five years. El Niño can affect the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean and the winds near the equator. The warm waters that would usually move toward Asia shift instead toward the eastern and central Pacific. This disruption in the weather pattern can increase rainfall dramatically. This year’s El Niño is predicted to be unusually strong bringing more frequent storms and heavy rainfall. In addition, the snow pack, a major source of our water supply, is predicted to be three times bigger than last year. These predictions raise concerns about flooding and mudslides.
Both rain and snow are needed to replete our shrinking water table, but the drought has left the soil hard, dry and impermeable to rain. Storm drains will not be able to handle all of the rain that is predicted to fall in result of El Niño. To slow down runoff and avoid flooding, there are preventative measures that can be taken:
- Check to learn if your home is in a flood zone through this interactive flood zone mapping tool.
- Place multiple sand bags around your home to help soak up the storm water.
- Clean the gutters in your home.
- Spread mulch on top of the soil to help the water absorb and reduce flooding.
- If the architecture of your home allows for a rain barrel, this would be an innovative way to harvest rain water and use it for future dry seasons to water plants.
- Rain gardens, bioswales, and planting native plants are attractive landscape editions that can also help reduce flooding by helping to absorb and filter rain water.
While our state will benefit from a very wet winter, even the wettest season may not be able to replenish California’s water supply. Conserving water is an imperative measure that we all still need to practice long term. The Watershed Project has many volunteer opportunities working on our Greening Urban Watersheds initiatives. If you would like to learn more, join any of our Second Saturday workdays by contacting Martha@thewatershedproject.org. Please also contact her if you have a group that is interested in scheduling a separate work day mulching, digging, and planting at one of our many rain gardens. Together, we can help prepare our community for the coming rains!