(I know other areas of the west are suffering, too)
Historic around here means that the years between 2011-2015 have been the driest period in California since record keeping started in 1895. I’m using a few pictures today from our recent drought-friendly re-landscaping. We are down to only 300 square feet of grass.
Well, looking into historic droughts, of course, this one isn’t the first. From approx 1855-1865, the West and Great Plains got hit hard by severe drought. Drought conditions in the 1870’s invited swarms of Rocky Mountain Locusts to devour the countryside as thoroughly as green fence posts and lace curtains. The grasshoppers are normally held at bay by fungal diseases that had dried out.
On the boot heels of 1886’s deadly blizzards across the West’s rangelands, the droughts of the 1890’s marched in.
Throughout the settlement of the West, homesteaders had relied on “dry farming” the arid lands under the very unscientific philosophy of “rain follows the plow.” By the end of the 19th century, however, this method defeated the single family farmer. He could no longer physically handle his land’s irrigation needs all by himself. The Reclamation Act of 1902 led to federal management of water resources, agricultural irrigation, and power.
So…what’s happening at my suburban homestead in 2015?
Well, improved water management, education, and conservation are working. Although this past June was the warmest June ever recorded, the amount of water saved was six times the same month the year before.
For the second straight month, Californians have saved more gallons than our mandated water cuts. The governor ordered a 25% cut in urban water usage but overall, we’re hitting 31%! My town–we have a diversion program that saves rain whenever we get it–was told to save 12%. We hit 20.6% in July!
Hubs and I removed 1,100 square feet of thirsty sod and replaced it with drought-friendly plants like cotoneaster, ceanothus horizontalis, and dwarfwheel pittosporum.
The bathroom renovation included low-flow flushers and shower heads. Since showering uses 17% of a household’s water, we catch the cold water in a bucket while the shower heats up. The bucketfuls then irrigate Hubs’ little veggie garden. And I turn the water off while I lather up.
We water outdoors only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, early morning or after six p.m. (city mandate). We have drip systems on timers that slowly deep-water root systems. Sprinklers tend to “rain” on vegetation, leaving drops to sit there and evaporate.
One idea I found on Pinterest to deep-water areas like our former dog-run: inverted plastic bottles with a couple of holes drilled in the lid and the bottom cut away for easy filling with a hose or watering can.
So…what happens next? Everybody is using these conditions as a warning about the future–and praying for El Nino. Basically, El Nino is a series of winter storms caused by unusually-warmed Pacific waters. El Nino is predicted, but not a sure thing. It’s a nickname for the Christ Child, and some rain sure would be an awesome Christmas present.
How about you? Tell us about some weather extremes in your neck of the woods.