Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nature Bats Last ><}}}*>

When not pre-occupied with baseball, PTownFan is a weather watcher .  Fascinated with the stuff.  Rain gauge in the backyard, the whole 9 yards.  So if you're wondering whether all this weather will make it possible to water the lawn willy nilly this summer, the answer is still "Probably not".  But you can have a glorious California landscape if you get going now.

Why are we preparing for water rationing this summer after 5 sopping wet weeks of glorious precip?  Naturally, it's complicated. 
  • For starters, it's tough to make up a 7 or 8 inch deficit during what is already the wettest month of the year.
  • While many parts of the state have finally cracked 90% of normal mark for year-to-date rainfall, Santa Rosa just hit 71%.  Ukiah at only 63%.  Our primary reservoirs are up that a ways. The bullseye of most big storms this winter have favored San Francisco and the Santa Cruz mountains.  No help to PTown. 
  • Our primary reservoirs are far from full. Lake Sonoma is at about 85% of normal and Lake Mendocino is still critically low at about 50% of normal. Russian River flows during the summer are largely dependent largely on imported Eel River water from Lake Pillsbury, west of Willits, which is 78% of normal. 
  • In addition to agriculture, municipal and industrial uses, considerable water from the reservoirs is required to maintain minimum Russian River flows to provide recreation and fish passage for salmon and steelhead.  No doubt you've heard about the collapse of the salmon population.  
  • Who knows whether this is the beginning of a multi-year wet weather pattern, or an exceptionally wet month during a multi-year drought.  Wisely, the peops that manage our water supply don't manage it a month at a time. They warned us a year ago that we might be wringing our hands about rationing this spring. 
  • The use of groundwater from wells this close to the San Francisco Bay to bail ourselves out is very controversial.  I'll stay out of that one.  But it's highly unlikely that groundwater will be the solution to this summers' problem.
Nature might have the final "ups" but here's my small ball strategy for the '09 season:
  • Drought tolerant plants. Lots of them. Planting them now while the spring rains can help them become established. Succulents are the bomb... drama, texture, and super thrifty on the water front. Cottage Gardens Nursery is the place to go for beauties like these euphorbia myrsinites .
  • Mulch. Getting 3-4" down while the ground is still damp to delay the need for irrigation by several weeks this spring.  Without an annual blanket of mulch, my super sandy hillside soil acts as a giant sieve with precious irrigation water running straight through it.  The mulch slows it down and acts like a sponge, especially over time as earthworms rototill it into the top two feet 24/7/365.  Invest some time in mulching for a few years and you'll stretch your water budget a long way. 
  • The lawn?  See ya!  A turf free landscape will be a "in" thing this summer.  Like titanium necklaces in pro ball.  Gotta have one!
  • The leak detection gizmo on the water meter rocks.  Piece of cake and really useful.
  • Leave carwashing to the professionals. I love my dirt colored wheels, but Mr. PTown prefers a shiny ride. The Raintree Carwash at 400 Petaluma Blvd North is the way to go. Commercial carwashes recycling their water.  Do it yourself driveway detailing sends a hundred gallons of soapy water down the storm drain picking up silt and road oil on it's way to the Petaluma River and the San Francisco Bay... without a makeover at PTown's fab new water treatment plant. 
  • And yah... I think I'll call that WaterWise housecall number for a free home inspection to see if there's anything we missed.  Like some of these tips. A family of 4 can save up to 200 gallons per week just by turning off the water while brushing their pearly whites. Wow! Pearlacious!
Nature bats last? I say, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game ;-) 

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