March 9, 2022, Petaluma CA
I just searched this blog for the word DROUGHT and found all the entries dated from 2020. I decided to start this journal due to the household conversations we’ve had on how we are going to ration our irrigation water this year. Water is due to become even more expensive and there is a possibility of it being rationed in Sonoma county.
Now, in early March, La Niña has been fully formed for the last three months and has pushed nearly all moisture to the north. We had one respite when an “atmospheric river” came across our county and two inches poured down in two days. Not much by some standards but it brought water into many garages and cellars, plugged up drains because it came down fast. But that is all we have had.
Sonoma county is coastal, we do not get water from the snows in the Sierra Nevada. Our water comes from impounds off the Eel and Russian rivers which are fed from rainfall in the coastal range. Water to the north of the Russian river doesn’t come to us. Moisture in many weather systems is too high to bring us rain, the moisture needs to encounter mountains larger than our coast range to be released.
So far in 2021-22 water year (October to October), we have 60% of the average annual water stored in Lake Sonoma, our largest reservoir. Our city, Petaluma, is 10 inches below the average annual rain (15 vs. 25 inches) and we are in a severe drought category now. Cities to the north of us, Ft. Bragg, Mendocino are already pumping brackish water from their wells and will again have to rely on desalinization and import via truck this year, they are in extreme drought conditions.
There is little hope for a “March Miracle”. In some years, the month of March has made up for dry months with substantial rains through out the month. We are not expected to see that this month.
So, what are we doing? I have a new nickname, “Johnny Buckets.” Each morning, I take the gray water we collect from the kitchen and showers and distribute it to the landscaping. The kitchen sink has a bucket in one well, which, when full, we empty into one of several larger five gallon buckets outside the house. We have small one gallon buckets in each bath to catch the water that comes cold from the showers. We use “Pumpy McPumpface,” a hot water feed pump which circulates the hot water through the pipes so we use water less waiting for hot water, we catch the cold water and reuse it. We don’t flush our toilets unless required. Last summer, I punched a pipe through our garage wall into a cistern outside which feeds the gray water from the laundry to a small flower garden.
And, we are talking about foregoing flowers this year and concentrating on food production only. We are afraid we will lose our azalea, camellias, Magnolia and Japanese Maples which are anchors of our back yard landscape. We already replaced the lawn with sheet mulching as we got tired of watching the verdant green turn to burned out brown and bald patches by July. We called it our crunchy lawn over the last few seasons. Our expectation that we could landscape and plant some forms of drought tolerant plants will have to be delayed until La Nina moves on, even tolerant plants need some water to get established.
We hope our bamboo “dulcis” survives, last year it put out 50% less new growth, this year I will cut back its drip “ration” even further.
We are seeing many trees in the neighborhood being removed. Two groups of young redwood trios have come down in the last two years. There are no more misty mornings to keep them hydrated and it will be difficult to supply them with the water they need to survive.
Today our soil temperature is 59 F down 6 inches, we should be able to plant tomatoes in March. We’ve been seeing days of 70 F back to back, the wind now blows dry and pulls moisture from the earth.
Dare we put in summer squash, basil and tomatoes? I have the starts ready on the window sill.