Tag Archives: California drought

#DroughtLiving

1 Sep

I’ve been thinking a LOT about the drought lately.  It’s hard not to when you live in an area that’s marked by a red so dark it borders on black on all the drought maps.  It’s as if they ran out of shades of red with which to convey the seriousness of the situation.

Then, I went here.

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And hallelujah, if I wasn’t already thinking about water issues I was now.  There’s nothing like going somewhere where your scarce resources are abundant to put things in perspective.  It’s like when my mom comes to California and discovers that avocados are two for a dollar.  It’s guacamole time all the time.  I could regale you with tales of what it’s like to have so many avocados that you worry they might go bad, but instead I’m going in a little more sobering direction.

This is what it’s like to live in a drought.

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There’s so much blame. Have you seen the #droughtshaming hashtag?  A quick Twitter search will give you pictures of runoff from faulty sprinklers, well-manicured golf courses, and more watered sidewalks than you can count.  It’s like environmental McCarthyism.  I may be guilty of overusing the term, but I tend to do it in conversation and not on the internet.  Whether that’s better or just makes me so fun to hang out with?  You be the judge.

Even the cities are getting in on it.  Most cities have hotlines that you can use to turn in your neighbors.  I haven’t done so, but I may have been tempted by the neighbors watering down their plastic chairs int he middle of a light rain.

Drought shaming is a nice vehicle for righteous anger, but doesn’t really solve anything.  Luckily Californians are looking for more positive ways to address water waste.  In fact, if you look at the #droughtshaming hashtag, at least a third of the tweets offer other solutions.  That’s not something you normally find on social media.

You can find resources. It seems like everyone in our community is offering programs to learn more about how you can conserve.  Our library recently offered a Water Wise Gardening program, but I was surprised when I saw similar programs offered several times a month through different organizations.  There are rain barrel classes at the nature center, landscape seminars at the universities, and drought-tolerant workshops at the garden centers.

Water districts, which really had no need for flashy graphics before, are now among the top destinations on government websites. Residents who would like to get a rain barrell, tear out their lawn or replace their faucets can find rebates and classes from their city or water district almost anywhere in California.  Unfortunately most of these rebates don’t apply to California’s many renters.

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The rules are a constant source of frustration. Conversations on water usage come up all the time.  I spoke with a coworker who was concerned that her city’s prohibition against planting new plants that aren’t drought-tolerant meant she had to forgo her garden.  I leaned toward the growing your own food uses less resources than purchasing shipped food side of the equation, but the answers aren’t always clear.  Different cities have different rules.  Even neighbors might have different days that they are allowed to water on.  Certain rules, like that you can’t water within 48 hours of significant rainfall, come into play so rarely that it’s not a surprise people forget they exist.  Then there’s the distinction between restrictions (mandatory) and conservation measures (recommended)… If you haven’t already been immersed in water education, it’s easy to get a little lost.

It’s working (kind of). Many cities are meeting or exceeding the conservation thresholds Governor Brown has mandated and the savings have been improving drastically throughout the year.  You can have tons of fun with the State Water Resources Board’s conservation reports to see the statistics.  My city went from a 5% decrease in February (over 2013 statistics) to a 22% decrease by May.  That’s higher than our mandated benchmark of 20%.  Some places (yay! Merced at 43%!) are doing much better and some (boo! El Monte at -10%) are doing worse, but the good far outweighs the bad.

Remember all those rebates I mentioned?  Our water district has already run out of funds for turf removal and that’s pretty common throughout the state.  Other rebates are taking months to get to processed there are so many of them.  On one hand it’s frustrating, but on the other it means people are making changes and making them rather quickly.  That’s exciting!

Water conservation is a topic that seems to cross political boundaries, too.  I could have a half hour conversation with someone about water usage and still have no idea where they stand politically, despite water conservation being tied into government regulations.  Anytime people come together to make the world a better place,  it’s a positive step for our state.

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Now, I hate to be a downer, but even with all these positive steps, it’s unlikely that our drought problem will be solved.  The state even has a website that allows us to watch our water supplies dwindle.  California supports too much agriculture, too many people, and has too little precipitation.  Unless that changes, these are only delaying tactics.  I think that’s what really captures the reality of living in a drought. Even when we know we’re fighting a losing battle, we still band together to resist.  And talk about how, hopefully, El Niño will be strong this year.

~April

Photo Adventure: The Best Camera

25 Jun

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Tenaya Lake Encased in Fog

These pictures are from all the way back in May when I took a weekend trip to the Eastern Sierra.

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Tuolumne River, sadly bare of snow

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my camera battery, or rather, forgot to pack the battery I had charged….and forgot to bring the car charger I bought specifically so I could recharge my camera batteries during road trips. Awesome.

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Sunset at South Tufa

(Also, a jar of Nutella was pretty much the only provisions I brought for the entire trip. Either I wasn’t at my smartest when I packed my food, or I was a freaking genius. I can’t decide which.)

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Snowy June Lake Loop

Besides I couldn’t skip posting these, look who showed up!

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Aprilly!

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Aprilly and Greg!

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They brought better food than I did, and even managed to make baked brie in a dutch oven in a downpour. Left to my own devices, I probably would have just eaten spoonfuls of Nutella in my van. I’m glad they endeavored because it was soooo good. (I offered to spread some of my half-eaten jar of Nutella on it, but for some reason they declined.)

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The next day the weather cleared enough for us to hike into Lundy Canyon.

It turns out Greg and I have differing opinions on photo orientation. He hates anything that isn’t landscape. This immediately made me want to champion portrait orientation as the superior choice in photo layouts. But then I realized that I’ve been shooting more and more in a square format since I started goofing off on Instagram, and I kinda like that too. So here it is, I’m stating it for the record: I’m pro photo layout diversity.

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~Robin

P.S. I miss you!

Earth Day: Books in Nature

26 Apr

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Everyone in Yosemite is slightly relieved that we finally got some precipitation this past week. It isn’t even close to enough to relieve the drought, but every little bit helps. We’ve seen the effects of the rain most dramatically in Crane Creek, which runs smack through the middle of the burned area from the El Portal fire last summer. With no plants to hold the soil back the deluge of water has filled the creek with sediment.

The book in the picture is Your Water Footprint by Stephen Leahy. It provides a good overview of current water use issues, and includes a pretty extensive section on the water footprints of everyday products. It also provides several suggestions for how to reduce your individual water footprint, and well made visuals accompany the information.

In truth, I wanted to review more books about reducing water footprints, and after scourging the local libraries, the shelves of Barnes and Noble, the collections of other Central Valley libraries, and even the library of the environmental organization I work for, I was disappointed by how little I found. You would think that in a place in such a dire state of drought, resources like this would be in high demand. Friends, this does not bode well for us.

~Robin

Read Green 4

Earth Day: Literary Irrigation

27 Apr

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I started to write a long winded step by step explanation of the irrigation system I rigged in my garden to save water during this years drought, but the draft was long, dense, and unforgivably boring. Then I remembered Greg Johnson’s clever treatment of the IPCC assessment report that I posted earlier this month. I like this version better.

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could a veggie patch
planted in a drought be green?
neighbors said “DO IT!”

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“sprinklers waste water
but behold the wonder of…..
drip irrigation.”

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into the unknown
some method, mostly madness,
learn from my mistakes.

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a leaky faucet
nearly killed the project dead,
YouTube saved the day.

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a tough decision,
to buy soaker hose or drip?
ease trumps efficient.

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garden hose costly
numerous short lengths needed
new fave: hose couplings.

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take beat up old hose,
cut out crappy part with knife,
screw on new fitting.

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a highway of hose
takes water to the soakers
nestled in their beds

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stop leaks at the joints
gaskets are your new best friends
also, rubber bands.

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water earlier
to slow evaporation
early mornings best….

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Not. Gonna. Happen.
I’m not a morning person.
I bought a timer.

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mulch over soakers
traps in water and cools soil,
reuse paper bags!

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one last mulch layer
looks good, keeps paper in place
but cheap mulch stains hands

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sit down in the shade
survey your accomplishment
sip refreshing drink

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In conclusion, this project was challenging for me. I had to learn a lot of new skills, and use quite a bit of trial and error, to make the whole thing come together. Even though I had to buy new soaker hoses I’m proud that I still found ways to repair, repurpose, and reuse other stuff. I was particularly pleased when I successfully MacGyvered a rubber band into a gasket to fix a broken soaker hose coupling. No wonder that dude had so much swagger.

~Robin

Photo Adventure: Yosemite Falls

16 Feb

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My life is still a whirlwind, but I did go for an overnight adventure up the Yosemite Falls Trail.

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Yosemite Falls is one of the steepest and most difficult trails in Yosemite Valley. I’ve hiked up the trail plenty of times, but never with a full pack. Fortunately the company was awesome and the scenery was as stunning as ever.

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I’ve seen rock and ice fall on this trail before, and I know they happen pretty frequently. So it was a bit scary when we heard a loud cracking rumble on the way up. It was so loud I was convinced that it was rockfall, but it turned out to be huge chunks of ice plummeting into the snow cone.

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My friend Ryan actually saw the rockfall that caused this white colored scar on the rock face a few weeks ago.

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It’s been a really low snow year, which is causing all sorts of problems for California. There was just barely enough snow at the top of the falls for us to snowshoe.

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We trekked to Yosemite Point for this view.

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I was utterly fascinated by this Dali-esque airplane contrail.

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The Clark Range is pretty stunning too.

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The view from the top of the falls looking down into the section known as “Middle Earth.”

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Insert “Vertigo” theme here.

~Robin