Jan 31, 2007

How Dry We Are

From San Francisco Chronicle writer Glen Martin:

This season's scant rainfall doesn't yet mean we're in a drought -- but it's starting to feel that way. San Francisco is on track to post its fifth-driest January since 1850.

So far, San Francisco has recorded only 0.65 inches of rain compared to a normal rainfall of 4.72 inches. … And California as a whole is just as parched. Most crucially, the Sierra snowpack -- which provides Californians with most of their drinking and irrigation water -- has only 45 to 60 percent of its normal water content, depending on location. And it's not improving.

"The snowpack is declining," said Dan Gudgel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Every day that goes by with no precipitation puts us further behind with less prospect of catching up."

That's because California typically gets most of its precipitation in January, February and March, Gudgel said. Worse, no significant storms are headed this way.

Martin goes on to note that, while comparisons to the reservoir-draining droughts of the 1980s and 1990s may be premature, "The state's population is much larger now and would be harder-hit by a severe drought."

I was struck just a couple of weeks ago by how low the Lexington Reservoir, near Los Gatos, still was; and couldn't help but wonder what a drought might do to my business. Would homeowners clamor for water-wise makeovers? Or sit on their hands while their pretty flowerbeds and lush lawns became withered and crisp? Should I be in the business of green lawn paint?

Mostly, though, I was reminded of the wisdom of designing with "unthirsty" plants and low-flow irrigation systems, and the necessity of educating my clientele that we are, after all, a Mediterranean climate—meaning the next drought has every right to manifest this year (no matter what El NiƱo says). Are you ready?

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