About That Rain

lexington bridge 2-3-2015 1-53-33 PM

A divided reservoir: bridge in the background, all that grass used to be under water

As year three of the California drought drew to a close, something amazing happened: two weeks of storms making it one of the wettest Decembers in recent history. There was plenty of talk about the end of the drought and everyone felt some relief. That series of storms dumped enough rain to put us well above average for the season.

Then there was January. Typically one of our wettest months, San Jose registered “a trace of rain” measuring 0.02 inches of rain. According to our local paper, January was the driest on record.

Lexington Reservoir

I drove over the bridge crossing Lexington Reservoir on my way home this afternoon.  The county built the reservoir in 1952. It serves as one of the primary sources of fresh water in Santa Clara County.  I made a detour so I could take a few pictures.

Lexington Reservoir 2-3-2015 1-58-22 PM

Lexington Reservoir currently at 32% capacity

Santa Clara County Water District captures water in the reservoirs during the wettest months, then they release it into the ground water basin during the dry months. It provides more than half the fresh water used in our county. The water levels continue to fall, compounded by the unseasonably warm temperatures.

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Lexington Reservoir: The exposed grassy area used to be under water

lexington reservoir and santa cruz mountains

Heavy smog brought us another spare-the-air day. No rain or wind lead to unhealthy air quality

Gardening During a Drought

It feels irresponsible at this stage to plan a summer garden. We’ve talked of adding a water catchment system to use for irrigation, but unless it rains, it won’t do us any good. I researched a grey water system last year, but they aren’t without there challenges. The other half of the household is not on board.

I’m currently sheet-mulching half of the lawn in the back garden. I’ll plant drought-tolerant natives when the soil is ready. What remains is a small patch of green near the patio.

These are ‘small garden’ problems. Communities in California that rely on well water have seen that source run dry. Farmers need water to raise crops, and everyone needs clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Gardening Nirvana

What is a gardening blogger to do? Should I rename this blog The Guilty Gardener? Should I abandon a garden blog altogether? I’m at a bit of a crossroads.

As we head into year four of this drought, we have a few bright spots on the horizon. Three days of storms are in the forecast this week. February and March still lie ahead. But it could be years before we recapture lost ground. Water is not mine to waste.

I would love to hear from you. What would you do in my shoes?

The Atlantic Photo: Dramatic Photos of California’s Historic Drought

14 thoughts on “About That Rain

  1. The link you provide gives some incredibly disturbing before and after photos. I am sure you could give us inspirational tips for gardening in drought conditions. We all need to manage our gardens more sustainably.


  2. Those photos on the link really are dramatic. I have no idea what I would do in your shoes, but I would certainly take it as a challenge to show that a garden is possible even in the most adverse conditions…. I hope you find some nice drought-tolerant candidates for the grass replacement – that alone is a good move. You’re on the right track Alys and I wish you lots of luck!


  3. I worked for a landscape architect for about 6 years that did a lot of xeriscaping. That was in the late 80’s early 90’s. Gardening is about life. Just because the air quality is poor doesn’t mean we should stop breathing. You are teaching a valuable lesson here. Gardening responsibly is a difficult process but you seem to find ways around it every day and we all learn from you.

    I looked at our temps for next week and see them in the 60’s. It’s February for goodness sake! I think our planet is tilting a little to one side and the weather is different everywhere. Water has been the cause of many battles and more will come but we must carry on. You may get your rain a bit later this year. All those creatures in your yard are depending on you. Things will balance out. And now you have my nickles worth. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alys I was reading in a blog post a while back that water from California is trucked to other states. What do you know about this? What I do know is that trees ‘attract’ water, from the ground and the air, so more would be better than less. They are also good for smog 🙂 Another blog friend wrote about scattering grass seed and the birds eating it, but leaving enough to germinate and grow. To me this shows that nature knows what she is doing and will help us if we let her. You are growing drought resistant plants, keeping all your wild critters alive and well and feeding your family. Water where you must and let the rest be. I love that you care so much. And I love the name of your blog – perhaps ‘Nirvana’ requires a bit more from us than it once did 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Salvias, asters, penstemon, and ceanothus do well in our Northern CA garden with little water. But I understand your reluctance to plant new at this time. Feeling your pain…and praying for rain.


  6. I swear I think of you (and others out there) every time I turn on the water! What a disappointment January must have been after December. I wish I had the answer … but I do know this!
    You have such incredible insights, share so many interesting things, are so full of compassion and are just so much fun.


  7. I’ve worried a lot about this ever since you showed me the shocking photo’s of all the local reservoirs’ around California. It seems we’re on a steep decline all around the world. My gosh, there just doesn’t seem a way around it. I need to sleep on this, I would feel so terrible if you abandoned your blog. We all know how dedicated you are to reducing your footprint. I don’t know how farming can be continued. Then again, what are they to do? With bills and staff to pay, it’s hard to diversify. Salination may be the solution, while costly, it’s better than abandoning the economy, or worse, turning California into a ghost town. Does that sound like a hysterical “the sky is falling” ? It’s my nature to think ahead, try and plan, be prepared. One could not blame you one bit for doing the same. We’ve always been very dedicated to watching our water usage since we had a cistern at the lake. I’ll admit, since moving to the city, I do allow myself the water on during my shower. I should rethink that. xoxox K


    • You are so sweet to share your/our concern. I don’t think I would give up blogging, but perhaps do something more in line with what you do. That said, my blog feels so personal by now, and for that matter, my garden, too. It’s a lot to think about.

      I remember your stories about the lake and your water use. I’ve learned from you, too in that regard and try to think of ways to cut back indoors as well. At some point, you feel like you’ve done what you can do, but outdoors, I know I can do more.

      San Jose Water was giving out shower buckets for awhile so that people could capture the running cold water while they wait for the shower to heat up. I’ve been taking a hot bath every few days, then having a sponge bath in between. I where my jeans a few times before washing them and if possible, do the same with shirts. We each have a bath towel (color coded) and use that all week before washing.

      All that, then I look out the window at our lawn and shake my head.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I read the entire link you provided to Pauline. OMGosh, it really sounds dire. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that most residents can and will learn to live with less water usage. As for the commercial operations guzzling up more than their share, it’s appalling. How can these golf courses continue? They are a luxury the planet can not sustain. It’s interesting that the rich and famous are built in an area with absolutely no aquifers to sustain their palatial properties and lawns. I think the whole ‘vast-green-acres’ look is something brought over from Great Britain in the past, where there is endless rain to sustain such things. As the article mentioned, California is basically a desert kept green by watering. Maybe landscaping like the more arid states makes more sense.
        We are not in a position of complete safety in Canada either. Even the Great Lakes have seen water levels decline and certainly around rural Alberta too. Alberta and BC are somewhat reliant on annual snowfall in the Rockies. We generally get a lot of rain in June and July, but with the summers being so much warmer than they used to, we may find ourselves in trouble too. Communities should make efforts to learn new habits ‘before’ it becomes a necessity. But in reality, there are far too few Alys’s out there and far more glutens who will just take take take until, it’s gone. Let’s liquidate our assets and move to a tropical island, we can live on Banana’s xo K


  8. You have my total understanding. It is simply awful, and as I type this rain is actually falling on The Holler. I hope it could amount to 2% of what the wild plants and animals need. This would be a big improvement.


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