Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Drought Tolerance

Here’s the thing about water: We have the same amount of water on the earth that we’ve always had, and always will have. It does not evaporate into space. It changes forms and locations, but it doesn’t disappear. What does that mean to you? For one thing, it means at this time in the history of the earth, every drop of water that you drink has probably been pee at some point. Fun, huh?

Water changes locations all the time, and currently there is none in California. Whatever the hell a “Polar Vortex” is, there seems to be one gripping the entire country except California. It has basically been spring here in California since fall. We are apparently just going to completely skip winter. With no rain or snow to speak of, we are in the midst of the driest winter months ever since they started keeping track of these sorts of things.

We took a drive out to Folsom Lake near Sacramento this weekend to gawk at the astounding lack of water. At one point in December the lake level was dropping one foot per day, and it is looking a lot more like a mud puddle at this point than a reservoir. The marina docks are all sitting in the dirt on the bottom of the lake. We went out to see the remains of an old gold-mining town that was abandoned and flooded when the Folsom Dam was built to create the lake. We even walked across a really nice old stone bridge that has been uncovered, still in great shape after 60 years underwater. There are multi-million dollar homes up on the hills above the lake that now boast the impressive view of looking down on hordes of tourists walking around a dry lakebed.

Never afraid of making a profit from catastrophe, the state of California was charging $12 per car to come view the horror. Based on the parking lot traffic we saw while we were there I would estimate the state made well over $20,000 that afternoon, minus the salaries of the two gate personnel and the upkeep cost on the ONE functional port-a-potty at the entire lake. Nice job, California.

Things are looking bleak for The Golden State, which is great news for me.

As you probably know, I hate lawn care. I don’t like spending my time mowing and trimming, and I hate spending my money on water to attempt to keep my lawn green and therefore requiring more mowing and trimming. It’s a vicious cycle. It rained about an eighth of an inch in late September, and that was the day I shut my automatic sprinklers off for the summer. I foolishly thought we would have more rain during the fall and winter months. By the end of October my wife was asking me to turn them back on, but I refused, saying, “It has to start raining at some point.”

I was wrong. I think it has rained once since then. By mid-November my lawn was so yellow it made the house look abandoned. I was afraid my neighbors would stage an intervention. It was looking like I might be forced into action by the ridiculous social convention of year-round green lawns, but then I got really lucky and everyone noticed that we hadn’t been getting any rain or snow. By mid-December all anyone could talk about was how dry it had been. Excellent! I’m off the hook.

This is a double boon for me. Not only am I going to have a summer of almost zero lawn care, as the impending drought forces all of us to give up watering, but I can be smug about it, too. If anyone comments on my dead grass I can look down my nose at their green lawn and say something like, “Still watering, huh. I guess some of us care about preserving our natural resources more than others.”

This whole thing is making me look like I was drought-conscious before it was cool, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

The good news – besides of course my lawn care reprieve and impending smugness – is that the water is out there somewhere, and it will eventually return to California. The bad news, at least in the short term, is that we might not have any food later this year.


Food concerns aside, luckily quite a bit of the nation’s beer is brewed in other states, so we should be all right there. A big thanks to Colorado, Missouri, and Wisconsin. You guys are really saving our bacon out here! Triple win for me, since I will have more time to drink beer this summer due to the cessation of lawn care activities. Droughts are fun!

While it appears we’ll be fine beer-wise, you wine drinkers out there might want to stock up now. I don’t mean to be a doomsayer, but it’s looking like the only thing the folks in the Napa Valley will have to irrigate the grapes with this summer is their own pee.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Marc - Droughts are fun, but draughts are better! Drink on...Jeff