Water Sense

June 3, 2015

d7dfe440-98af-11e3-a20a-4197883a2af2_calif-terra-nasa-2014Overcast with a touch of ground fog this early Wednesday on California’s north coast as we’re expecting more sunshine today despite a forecast for a possible, slight-touch of drizzle.
Weather along a shoreline is always abnormal, so whatever is outside is what’s happening — doesn’t make any sense, but not making sense is part-n-parcel of the new normal.

Water sensitivity also intricate to modern life.

(Illustration: NASA satellite image in early 2014 of California’s drought, found here).

Even as California looks to Texas for drought-busting hope, the gauge for water is our use of it — in April, California water use fell 13.5 percent compared to the same time a year earlier, but still well-below the now-required 25 percent, standards which went into effect on Monday.
Considered ‘still lackluster‘ in work toward a realistic goal of saving water. Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board: ‘“The real challenge is, we really have to step it up for the summer months. If we miss the summer, we are toast.”

Water numbers released yesterday by the board did, however, produce some apparent positive stirrings amongst the populace (via SFGate): ‘At the same time, the data from state water officials show that strict crackdowns in some places, leading even to a climate of shame around water waste, are spurring many to rethink routine activities like showering and watering the lawn. April’s water savings, though insufficient, is the biggest this year, and it’s a whole lot bigger than the 3.9 percent cut recorded in March.’

Also released yesterday were some waterless-related economic numbers — the continuing drought is taking a hard, nasty bite out of California’s $45 billion agricultural economy, according to new analysis.
Via the Contra Costa Times:

When indirect costs are included — such as losses to fertilizer suppliers, truck drivers and corner stores — the total economic cost of this year’s drought to the state is estimated to be $2.7 billion and the loss of about 18,600 jobs.
In a region known as the nation’s produce basket, an estimated 564,000 acres of irrigated cropland will be pulled out of production this summer, up from 428,000 acres last year, the UC Davis researchers told the State Board of Food & Agriculture at a Tuesday morning meeting.
This will trigger losses of $856 million in crop revenue and $350 million in dairy and livestock value, as well as $595 million in added costs due to additional well-pumping, based on NASA space satellite imagery and an economic analysis by the UC Davis team, lead by director Jay Lund.

Some details from Capital Public Radio:

This year for agriculture it looks like the drought will be a little bit worse, but overall, not catastrophically worse,” said Jay Lund, a professor at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and one of the study authors.
The study estimates that farmers will have 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal year, an average loss of roughly 33 percent of water supply.
“Expanded groundwater pumping will offset more than 70 percent of this surface water deficit, with pumping costs expected to reach $600 million,” the study estimates.
“We have a little bit less water in groundwater so it’s a little deeper to get to it,” said Lund.
“And there’s a few wells that have started to go dry.
“So the groundwater is more expensive and there’s a little bit less of it.”
It is also estimated that farmers will fallow roughly 560,000 acres, or 6 to 7 percent of California’s average annual irrigated cropland.

As we here on the Left Coast work our way through a summer of dry, tinder grasses without much water, the last few weeks in Texas may/may not be our fate next year. Working off a strong-maybe of a “super El Niño” now already forming in the Pacific Ocean, the rainfall, tornadoes and flooding in Texas could indicate we’d get the same during our next rain season — as this noted example from a piece at WunderBlog on heavy-water pounding a dry: ‘The definition of Weather Whiplash: portions of Texas and Oklahoma went from the most extreme category of drought — “Exceptional” — to no drought whatsoever in just four weeks. A five-class improvement in drought in such a short period of time is bound to lead to serious flooding.’

Adding hope for that El Niño event, coupled with the Texas and Oklahoma weather, was a much-wetter, colder May than normal for Southern California, evidence that maybe it will be a big one with rain for us.
The state is looking forward to it: ‘“It will be the ‘great wet hope’ and it will deliver a wet winter,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories.’

Only water will tell…

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