Let’s be clear– This is the third major drought we’ve experienced in twenty-five years. The issues are as follows – an increase in population and water usage without any commensurate preparation on the part of our state government and our municipalities whatsoever. Because, yeah, right, the state figured we’d never have another drought. Idiots. And that’s all I’ll say. There are reasons for that lack of preparedness but I’ll just say– Idiots.
We’re better off in Napa. We are not going to run out of water. The seasonal streams will dry up quick, but we don’t depend upon them for water or irrigation. (Will impact the newly resurgent salmon population.)
We moved to California in 1990. California, at that time, was in the midst of a serious drought. It lasted five long years. We couldn’t water our lawn. In order to keep our shrubs and vegetable garden alive (barely) we did the following:
1. Kept a bucket in the shower to catch the water, soap and all, for watering plants.
2. Washed dishes in a bucket so we could strain the water and pour it on shrubs.
3. Bathed the three little kids together and used the water for the vegetable garden.
In addition we:
1. rarely flushed toilets. (Use your imagination.)
2. only washed super full loads of laundry.
3. only washed super full loads of dishes.
4. stopped washing cars.
5. kept showers to under five minutes.
6. bought bottled drinking water.
7. let the lawn die, front and back.
At the time we couldn’t afford to modernize our plumbing or redo our landscaping. We’d just moved from Utah, where the cost of living is low, to California, where the cost of living is high. We had three little kids, a HUGE mortgage, and my husband didn’t make much more money than he’d been making in Utah.
Remember, most of California is a desert. Always has been. It may be a fertile desert, but it’s still a desert. The Central Valley can grow pretty much anything and everything if there is water for irrigation. In all seriousness, even though the soil smells disgusting it’s amazingly fertile. A single tomato seedling stuck in my garden grows up to be the tomato plant that takes over the world.
Much of the nation depends upon California agriculture so this isn’t just a California-specific problem.
But take heart! This is a temporary situation. After the first drought we experienced, we survived five solid years of flooding– flooding so severe we were FEMA’d. We, personally, lost our retaining wall, were forced to re-landscape the entire backyard and add French drains. Our county has spent a number of years completing a flood control project which not only saves water, provides wetlands for birds and fish, but also keeps our town from flooding in wet winters. Basically it’s feast or famine around here. Now it’s famine. A few years ago it was feast.
Thus this isn’t a forever drought, it’s a for now drought. But just like our local governments prepare for wet years, they should prepare for dry years.
So far we haven’t been given any water restrictions. But it’s not like I ever wash my car…
Last year we replaced the grass in our backyard with Heavenly Greens. Two years ago we pulled most of our sprayers and replaced them with drip. Doesn’t work as well but it does save water. I deep water the un-dripped shrubs once a week, we water our small patch of grass in the front twice a week, and I water my garden three times a week. We’re back to not always flushing toilets and I save all extra water in big tubs to give my flowers an extra drink. (Plus we have water-saving appliances and low-flush toilets.)
Wish us well, but don’t worry too much. We’ve been through this before and we’ll go through this again. Like I said, California is a desert. Sometimes a wet desert but a desert nonetheless.
Take away message – When the Midwest and the East Coast are wet, we tend to be dry. Weather patterns. Ocean currents. No big surprises hereabouts.