From the Ground Up

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A Historic Occasion at Morelos Dam

I’ve been reading some firsthand accounts of something that happened earlier this week: On March 23, several hundred people gathered to watch as the gates of the Morelos Dam were opened for the first time in five decades, to allow a “pulse flow” of water to flow through the last 70 miles of the Colorado River, before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. As part of a landmark agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River Delta will once again have water coursing through its dried-up channels, which will extend to the lower delta and go all the way to the sea. With the exception of a couple of isolated “El Niño” rainstorms during the 1980’s and 90’s, this will be the first time that water from the Colorado has reached the sea since 1960. This is all made possible by Minute 319, an amendment of a 1944 treaty between U.S. and Mexico, that concerns their shared responsibility for the Colorado River. Scientists and officials of the two cooperating governments hope that the water will help efforts to restore the Delta and revitalize an ecosystem that once included native willows and cottonwoods, and teemed with insects, birds, and fish. The pulse flow, which will continue through May 18, will mimic the natural yearly flood from snow melt in the Rocky Mountains that used to take place before the Colorado River was dammed up and diverted to support the growth of arid desert communities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and Denver.  

Jennifer Pitt of Environmental Defense Fund, posted on the Water Currents webpage about her experience as a witness to this historic first. She has been following the flow and marking how long it takes for the river to move downstream. The pictures on this webpage are glorious.

Minute 319 has been hailed by countries in Asia and Europe as a model for binational cooperation over shared rivers as well as policies that promote practical adaptation to climate change.

Encouraging news, isn’t it? Water is life, and life could now Imagereturn to the Colorado Delta as a result of this far-sighted policy.



Welcome, raindrops


We got some rain yesterday. Yes, we did–not much, but a little. Precious little according to the precipitation map at LA’s  Dept Public Works.  Check it out to see how much fell in your neighborhood.

In my neck of the woods it was 0.20 inches. In the coastal areas there was a bit more, up to 0.35 inches. Inland, there was very little to none, as in  Z.E.R.O. inches in Palmdale, Lancaster, Castaic.

If it rained every day for the whole month of February, we might be okay. But extended weather forecasts call for a continuation of our dry and sunny pattern.

Now that the drought is official, I am waiting for the message to get out and everyone to start taking small steps to conserve water.

In the home, here are some suggestions:

Take shorter showers (this means ME! I am guilty.)

Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket or ashtray. Every flush uses 5-7 gallons of water, so only flush when necessary.

Don’t run the water the whole time you are shaving or brushing your teeth. Use what you need to wet your toothbrush or rinse the soap off your razor, and turn the tap off.

Don’t let the faucet run continuously while rinsing vegetables in the sink or doing dishes in the sink.

There is NO need to totally rinse off every single scrap of food before loading dishes into the dishwasher. (Guilty, again!)

Install aerators on all the faucets in the house. (It’s cheap to do!)

Switch out your shower heads for “low-flow” versions.
In the garden:
Make sure your sprinklers are adjusted so they are spraying your plants, not the sidewalk.

Put a a 3-inch layer of mulch around trees and shrubs. It will discourage weeds as well as conserving moisture.

Don’t over-water your lawn. If you step on the grass and it springs back, it doesn’t need watering yet.

Set the mower blades higher and mow less often. Letting grass grow up to 3″ tall will conserve moisture.

Tear out your lawn altogether and plant drought resistant plants and ground cover.

Install soaker hoses or a drip system in your flower beds and around your trees and shrubs, and reserve the use of spray heads for larger areas of grass or ground cover. Also, switch out your conventional spray heads for low-volume (i.e MP rotator) heads.

C’mon people, let’s do it!

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The 100-Year Drought


I’ve been thinking a lot about the water shortage since the Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week. It’s pretty clear that the situation is getting dire, with evidence everywhere you look: reservoirs are running at below half of normal; the snowpack is at 20% to 15% of normal; January temperatures have been abnormally high; and red flag fire conditions have been declared in many communities that haven’t seen any rain at all during what are supposed to be the wettest months of the year. This is serious and it affects the economy in general. The impact will be felt by farmers, ranchers, and consumers not just throughout the state but throughout the country.

And locally? So far the Governor has asked residents to voluntarily cut back water usage by 20%, but soon we’re definitely going to reach the point of mandatory rationing– it’s just a matter of when and how soon. During all of  2013, Los Angeles only got 3.4 inches of rain– that’s less than 1/5 of what is considered “average” rainfall.

I’m grateful that several of my recent clients have ripped out their lawns and requested that they be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation. Thank goodness people are getting the picture.