In June 2009 I bought a foreclosure property on 5 acres in the small, gold country town of Mokelumne Hill, CA. Since then I have done a lot of things to the house and the yard trying to figure out a way to live there permanently. The town's main street is almost the same as it was in the mid-1800's and the Hotel Leger was featured on "Hotel Impossible". The people are mostly bay area refugees and very welcoming. They all love this little town and I am beginning to see why..
Sunday, January 12, 2014
What does a drought mean to you?
What does a drought emergency mean?
For those of you who are new to California or maybe under
the age of 30, and have not lived through a drought emergency declaration
before, here is what the impact will be to you.
First, the logical items are that you will be asked to
conserve water. The people in the city of Folsom have been told to cut back by
20% and to not use water outdoors. In other words, you will need to stop
watering your garden, don’t wash your windows or your car and for pete’s sake,
don’t use the hose to clean off your walks and driveway. These are really
obvious areas and the ones that can make a difference right off the bat.
Second, you need to conserve water inside the house as well.
Right now the instructions are to run only full loads in your dishwasher and
clothes washer, and to take shorter showers. During the mid-1970’s we had a
severe drought and we were asked to do things like put bricks in our toilet
tanks. (That was before the current water efficient toilets.) Other things we were
asked to do is to recycle “gray water”, which is the water that is left over
when you take a bath or wash your clothes. In perennially drought stricken
areas such as the deserts, some people have a permanent gray water recycling
system that will take the rinse water from your washer and empty it out on an
orchard area. As long as you are using chemical and sulfate free detergent this
works. We don’t have this in California and I am not sure it is legal actually.
It is kind of strange the rules we have here to protect the environment are
also hurting the environment.
What happens if the drought continues?
Some of the immediate effects you will because of the
drought seem positive at first. You won’t have as many allergies because
nothing is blooming.. but you will also miss the beauty of the flowering trees
that are staying dormant now.
Meat prices will drop, because ranchers have to feed and
water those herds. In extreme periods they will slaughter all the animals they
have before they are even market weight, except for a few to rebuild their
herds when the rain returns. Look for beef prices to drop especially in the
beginning because cows are very resource intensive. During this price drop,
stock your freezer as much as you can. Because you know what happens in a
couple of months when the excess supply is gone? You got it, then meat prices will
boomerang up to be very expensive. So much so that you will be cutting meat out
of your daily diet as much as possible. This effect will happen in all
livestock groups, cattle, pork, sheep and yes chickens. Be aware of it
happening and take advantage of it.
Produce prices will rise starting now. Sorry there isn’t
going to be a dip like there will be for meat. Those farmers who should be
looking to start planting their crops for spring such as lettuce, broccoli and
other seasonal produce will skip it. These large farm corporations will not
spend the money to water these crops so the only ones producing them will be
the home gardener or the small family farm. You will see the produce is still
available in the supermarket but it will be costly because it has to be trucked
in from out-of-state or it is greenhouse grown. The economic impact on farmers
and those who work in the fields, drive the trucks or work in the packing
houses will be enormous as well. All the people will be out of work and looking
Electricity prices will go up. This won't make sense to people until you look at the energy generation methods in California. We create
a lot of our electricity via hydro-electric dams. We use the force of the water
to turn the turbines to create electricity cheaply and efficiently, as long as
there is water to move the turbines we have stable electricity prices. Without the flow of water through the turbines, they will need
to use more expensive and “dirty” ways to create electricity, including coal
powered plants. You know how you have been thinking of going solar but can't make the economic argument to do so? You might be able to do that now.
What does the drought mean for the homeowner?
For me it means I will be turning the water off to
everything outside except my perennial fruit trees and asparagus. My front
meadow has been seeded for 4 years now with wildflowers and we will see if that
idea to make it self-sustaining works. I will not be planting my enormous
garden as in past years. This means that I will not be eating any corn or
squash, and neither will the deer and raccoons. (Wildlife is going to get
desperate without food and water and they will be moving into the
neighborhoods. Anything green will be eaten.)
I have some small vegetable plantings in pots in Walnut Creek and
my plants in the greenhouse. Growing in a greenhouse uses very little
water when compared to growing outside. Also, with the fish tank and aquaponics
system I will be very energy and water efficient. You might say, how is that
possible when you will be growing plants in water? Look at it this way – in my
garden I have about 500 square feet of dirt. When I plant things, even though
they are intensively planted, I am still watering dirt. In the valley where temperatures hitting and staying above 100 degrees for months in the summer is the norm, and watering everyday (before sunrise), I am losing about 70% of that water
either to evaporation or to watering dirt. In a greenhouse environment I am
only watering the plants. It is extremely efficient and I should be able to
increase the yield over the garden by at least 100%.
What are you going to do?
Pay attention to everything you are doing that uses water.
Where can you cut back the use of water or even eliminate it? Start with the
easy changes… shorter showers, less loads of dishes or clothes. Are you
watering perennial shrubs using sprinklers? Can you change them out to drip
lines? Anything you do will have a two-fold effective, it will save you water
now and money in the future. Because the water companies will raise the rates,
that you can be sure. The more you save now the less you will have to pay.
Pray for rain!
I don’t care what you believe or don’t believe – pray for
rain in whatever way that means to you. Traditional praying to God or native
American rain dances or smearing mud on your face while howling at the moon. I am not saying any of these will work but right now we
need to do everything we can!