Facing Down the Drought

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Facing Down the Drought
warkawater.org Warka Water Tower. In 2015, the pilot project was constructed in Dorze, a rural community in south Ethiopia that had no potable water. After this successful initiative, the non-profit 501 (3), “Warka Water Inc.,” was founded. Based in the U.S., it is a platform for the organization’s social actions.
UCLA historian Norris Hundl once noted, “It is a mistake…to think of California in terms of averages and regular cycles of precipitation.”  I like this statement. It reflects not only California climate conditions, but also the character of the people who live here. We are a rather unpredictable, outside-the-box lot, aren’t we? Presently, we are living in a state of drought. We have just had the driest January/February months on the California record. If knowledge is power, we need all the honest information we can get to ride out this iteration of California’s infamous droughts. We have had some dillies! A Little History Justin Malcolm (cwicaliforniadroughts.weebly.com) writes, “Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years….The two most severe mega-droughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 BC, and 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.” Good heavens! Hope this present drought is not in that league! Adam Kotin and Dru Marion (civileats.com) report, “…a dry Sonoma was declared entirely unsuitable for agriculture in 1841. The Sacramento Valley was written off as “a barren wasteland.” Much of the Central Valley was just a great ’inland sea’ during the torrential floods of 1861-1862, when Sacramento could be traversed only by canoe, then became drought-stricken two years later in 1864. California has a long history of water scarcity which led to an actual war in the 1920s between Los Angeles and the residents of the Owens Valley whose agricultural community collapsed when their water was diverted to Los Angeles, a story that provided the basis for the movie Chinatown.” The drought from 1976 to 1977 gave birth to efforts of conservation in urban areas. From 1982 to 1992 a severe drought was ended by a rip-roaring El Nino event. Drought returned in 2007, lasting two years, which unfortunately, it turned out that limiting water usage in urban areas caused such a decrease in revenue for water departments that there was a lack of funds available for the badly needed development of water infrastructure. According to Wikipedia, “Very few large-scale water projects have been built since 1979.” (But there sure was a lot of money available for bloated, vote-buying pension funds.) Usage Despite the large increase in population in California, urban usage accounts for only 25 percent of water consumption in our state. Seventy-five percent of the state’s water resources are used in agriculture. Naveen Athropully of the Epoch Times reports, “In California, especially the Central Valley, three-year snow and rain levels will soon be hitting their lowest since 1922. This year, there is 1.5 million acre-feet less water in California than last year.” “It does make for some very difficult (crop) producer decisions as to what to continue to grow and what to keep alive,” Brad Rippey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist, said at a press briefing. “It’s pretty certain that farmers are not going to get their full 75 percent this year simply because we don’t have the water available.” Ernest Conant, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Director of the California-Great Basin region, told the Associated Press, “Last year’s drought resulted in 395,100 acres of farmland in the state being idled according to a study by the University of California Merced. As a consequence, Athropully reports, 8,745 agricultural jobs were lost, leading to losses to the tune of $1.2 billion. It is predicted that California crop production will be decreased by at least one-third this year. The Role of Modern Tech in Drought Always remember how adaptable human beings are. We know confronting drought means practicing the ‘3 Rs’—reduce, reuse, recycle. Revolutionary technologies include the use of electronically active microbes to purify wastewater. Such technology as demonstrated by Cambrian Innovation’s EcoVolt can cut a city’s water footprint in half. Dais Analytic has also shown that nanotechnology can be leveraged to purify wastewater on a molecular level. Another company, Ambient Water, has demonstrated that it is possible to take advantage of evaporation by essentially dehumidifying water from the atmosphere, thereby recycling what would otherwise be wasted as a byproduct of various agricultural processes,” writes Bilal Ahmed for techmaish.com. Sensor-powered irrigation, cloud-computing soil analytics, rainwater harvesting, de-salination, indoor vertical farming and other modern technologies help fight drought. Smart water systems, based on the combination of Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, can help stop (dire) predictions from happening and undo the damage the imprudent usage of water resources has already caused, according to Digiteum.com. P.S. My husband, George, has, for years, promoted covering the California aqueduct to prevent evaporative loss. Smart man. Hope Springs Eternal! Today, a lot of people don’t want to plant a garden, because of the drought. But the more greenery, the better our chances of avoiding desertification. My family loves to plant, nurture and marvel at nature’s botanical wonders. It’s an act of defiance in a dry, pessimistic, weary, war-torn world. Just garden “smart!” Use the internet for water saving tips. Head out to the Thomas Payne nursery in Sunland or Matillija Nursery in Moorpark and find drought tolerant natives to grow. Use soil sensors and drip irrigation on timers. And… pray for rain… and peace. Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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April 1, 2022