23 June, 2014

A Paradise Without Water...

... would not be a paradise.  And this is the dilemma facing California today.

We are in our fifth year of drought.  Farmers have lost almond trees and other crops. Restrictions apply in most cities on the use (especially the waste) of water.  Some folks say "California is a dessert..." to which my colleague and co-instructor Orchid Black retorts, "Only because we made it one!" 

As reported in a recent LA Times article, this current drought has gotten worse.  And it's long time before our rainy season (ostensibly beginning in November) arrives.  

The purple circles show where the drought conditions have worsened.  If 33% of the state is experiencing 'exceptional' drought conditions (up from 25% last week alone), why do a majority of Californians state they have not felt impacted by the drought?   

There has been no major push by government or utilities to enforce any kind of real water conservation through out the state.  Only in towns like Willits, in Northern California have had any kind of water conservation effort and that came when the citizens of Willits learned they had only a 10 day supply of water from the state and then nothing.  Through massive and draconian conservation efforts and reopening local wells and other acute measures, Willits did not have to go thirsty, but it was touch and go for weeks.

California has a long history of critical water supply problems, some dendrologists believe California has suffered drought conditions for as long as 200 years at a whack!  Modern humans have moved  here en masse from the rest of the US - indeed, the rest of the world - to luxuriate in the magnificent Mediterranean climate.  But we spoil it.

We want the Mediterranean climate but we want to also pretend we are in Tropical wonderland and The British Isles at the same time.  We plant palm trees - only two species are local to southern California and neither of them are preferred species - and we roll out acres and acres of lawn.  I can live with or without the palm trees - they make me think that the people who put them in our landscape are just ignorant of the beauty we already have here.  But I have a special disdain for lawns.  

Lawns in southern California make about as much sense as a potato chip factory on the bottom of Santa Monica Bay.  It's so hard to get a crisp potato chip with all that water!  Lawns in England, Ireland and Scotland (yeah yeah, Wales too) don't need to be installed with a programmed irrigation system.  The rule, as I see it, if you need to install automatic irrigation for your lawn, you shouldn't install a lawn. Lawn turf with its very short root systems (they way we grow it invariably creates root systems that are shorter than they would have in a more natural setting) takes much more water than any other crop we grow!  And I'm including crops for food (with the possible exception of some tropical specialty plants which do not cover nearly as much acreage as lawns or food crops).

Mind you, farmers need to modify their ways too.  The almond trees bulldozed (mentioned above) because of the lack of water, probably shouldn't have been planted in the first place (mind you, the trees became untenable because a huge amount of water stored in Northern California was shipped to Southern California in the midst of the non-existent wet season of 2013/2014 and the trees could have survived this drought had that not happened, but if they had to be destroyed this year, I read it as a poor choice for an area prone to drought).  And why is it that California irrigates acres of land to grow alfalfa, mostly at tax payers expense (because if the Federal government charged as much it cost to get the water to the farmer there would be squeals and screaming in Congress) only to export all this alfalfa to China!  California is the largest shipper of alfalfa in the world to China!  With tax payer subsidized water.  

We all need to change what we are doing with or without government or utility urging. Check your home for leaks.  Limit your showers to five minutes.  Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.  Cut down on landscape water.  To the degree you can, make water work twice before it leaves your domain.  I collect water as I'm waiting for hot water from the tap, I add in leftover water from the dog's bowl and left over coffee/tea into the bucket (any water without soap or other harmful substances) and this bucket helps water my container garden.  I can't control all my water to the extent that it all works twice, but that which I can control I do.  

Your changes will make very little difference in the water shortage in California.  But it will help you feel empowered and will reinforce your appreciation and respect for water. THAT is the biggest change.  And you will feel more at home in our drought prone climate. It will help you appreciate this world we live in.  You are here.  Not the Bahamas.  Not London. You are here in a Paradise like no other.


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