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DROP IN THE BUCKET: Why record rain won’t dent California drought Comment on this post ↓
July 22nd, 2015 by Warren Swil

Gold is the new green

as we learn to live

with less water

California Gov. Jerry Brown imposed the first mandatory water use reductions on the state after four years of drought.

Once emerald green, my front lawn has been slowly turning golden as California’s four years of drought and local watering restrictions take their toll.
Suddenly, Mother Nature delivered us a paradoxical “gift”: record rainfall in mid-July!
While we all rejoiced at the sudden downpour, it is alas not going to alleviate the drought any time soon.
The seeds of the current water scarcity were sown a long time ago in far off places. The recent storm was not only in the wrong place at the wrong time; its bounty was far too little to make a real difference.
We are having to learn to live with less water.

The headlines on July 20 might have made many readers think the problem was solved.
The Weather Channel was the most promising in its post California Gets ‘Super Historic’ July Rainfall Thanks to Former Hurricane Dolores

The Weather Channel’s story on the recent record rainfall in California.

“Los Angeles, San Diego and over a dozen other California cities set all-time rainfall records for the month of July due to the unprecedented mid-summer rainfall, which one National Weather Service meteorologist called ‘super historic.’ ”
Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Times was optimistic in its Monday morning story Powerful storm to bring another day of rain to Southern California
“More than a dozen local rainfall records were broken over the weekend, the weather service reported, and more rain was forecast for Monday.”
However, one had to read much further into the piece to get some real perspective on the issue.
July is the driest month of the year in the area, according to the weather service, so the previous record – set in 1886 ­– was less than a quarter of an inch. It didn’t take much to beat that – and in fact Saturday’s “record” rainfall was a mere 0.36 of an inch.
Not only was this “record” amount of July rain far too little to have more than a transitory impact, those of us directly affected can hardly forget that is was barely three months ago that California Gov. Jerry Brown stood amidst a stark Sierra landscape to announce mandatory, statewide water restrictions.
Brown’s unusual press conference was reported by The New York Times in the April 1 story California Imposes First Mandatory Water Restrictions to Deal With Drought.

The New York Times front page story on water restrictions imposed on California by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“People should realize we are in a new era,” Mr. Brown said at a news conference [in the hamlet of Phillips, Calif.] on Wednesday, standing on a patch of brown and green grass that would normally be thick with snow at this time of year. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”
Brown had carefully picked his locale to dramatize the most significant effect of the drought. Normally, where he was standing would have been covered by five or six feet of snow; this year there was none.
The Sierra snowpack, which flows into the state’s water system when it melts in the spring and summer, was the lowest this year since records started being kept about 70 years ago.
This is the most devastating consequence of the four-year drought. A storm dropping less than one-third of an inch of rain on parched cities and towns, as happened over the weekend, clearly was a mere drop in the bucket.
Brown’s executive order forced about 400 local water agencies throughout the state to adopt restrictions on water use aimed a decreasing consumption by 25 percent.
Our water supplier decreed that outdoor watering would be allowed only two days per week.
The inviting expanse of lush green grass was a major attraction when I bought my home in a modest Pasadena suburb. Virtually every house in my neighborhood also once had such a luxury.
No longer.
A green front lawn is no longer a badge of pride here. In fact, it has become a downright embarrassment. A few neighbors have already torn up their lawns, replacing them with native, drought-tolerant landscaping. Others are talking about it.
Almost everyone, though, is accepting that our era of easy access to unlimited water is over. Gold is the new green.

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One Response  
  • Bjorn writes:
    July 31st, 2015

    In San Diego we were a bit luckier, since we were closer to that Hurricane Dolores and she brought us quiet a gully washer! As a matter of fact we had major flooding at most intersections and it was hard to navigate through 8 to 10 inches of water at all sidewalks!


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