Is the Drought Over?

If you live here, you've seen the headlines. Here is today's in SFGate: "It's Over! Northern California officially out of drought!" And you read this and you think, "Wow, this is awesome news. We took a pounding this past week, but it was worth it. The Sierra is full of snowpack, the reservoirs are at their highest in 20 years, man, I feel terrible for the folks that live near in flood zones, but gosh - I can go back to washing my cars every week and watering any damn piece of lawn I want to, every day if I feel like it."

Well, that's what I imagine everyone is thinking, anyway. But read the story more closely, or dig into actual facts, and you'll see that it's not so clear. Parts of the state, north of us - yes, they're fine. But where we are? In the East Bay? Still not fine. Hard to believe, after the amount of water that fell this past week. At Poppy Corners, we were setting up emergency sandbags and shop-vac'ing the water from garage corners quite a bit. I know we're not alone (and oh, the poor people whose homes are completely flooded). But if you look at the official map of the US Drought Monitor, you'll see that things are not as perfect as the papers want you to believe.

 Released today, January 12, 2017

Released today, January 12, 2017

The southern half of the state is still clearly in drought, parts of it desperately. Concerning, but what I really want to focus on is that band of yellow and peach around the East Bay. That's us, here in Walnut Creek. SO much better than last year, but still - the time for watering lawns and washing cars is clearly still not upon us. And I would suggest that they never will be. 

That's why headlines like today's make me nervous. Oh, it's great to celebrate what we've gotten, and feel relief; listen, I don't want to minimize the storm's totals or be a downer. But I truly believe we need a total mind shift in California. Instead of thinking about drought as something that we endure once in awhile (even if that 'once in awhile' is actually a span of years), we should be embracing the fact that drought is our natural state of being. A huge amount of this state evolved to be desert, for heaven's sake. Until we change the thinking, we're never going to learn to live differently. And though I know that there are people who disagree, scientists and water experts have insisted that we are going to need to learn to live differently. 

So headlines like the ones in the papers this morning aren't helping matters - they make us think it's ok to live as though drought never happened, giving a false sense of security and allowing permission to be wasteful. I know that no one wants to read bad news and no one wants to change behavior. I know I don't. I'd like to water my summer tomatoes like there's a never-ending supply. I'd like to take a long shower for once. I'd like to not have to save my cooking water to pour on plants outside. I'd prefer not to have to think about it every damn time I turn on the tap.

So I get it. I get the wishful thinking. But that's OLD thinking. Our current way of life in California is just not sustainable. The world may not be able to count on us for their salad greens or strawberries 365 days a year (I guess that's a topic for another rant). We might actually have to live like water is precious. So let's be part of the solution. Let's continue living frugally, at least where water is concerned. Let's rejoice in the precipitation that we got this past week, and still gear up for future drought.