After the storms of January and February, the San Francisco Bay Area is drying out and getting ready for spring. Our first iris bloomed in late March. It’s a Douglas iris, iris douglasiana, a California native plant. Hardy, drought-tolerant, and disease-free, these irises are stars for a California garden, with beautiful flowers in the spring and green leaves year-round. They’re easy to divide and move to new places in our yard.
California’s reservoirs are full, and the mountain snowpack is very large, so there’s lots of water to distribute to farms and urban users. Future challenges will be whether the water conservation forced by the drought will persist and dealing with groundwater overdrafts.
Our rainfall tapered off in March. Following two months with over 5″ of rain, March had only 1.6″, much less than the 2.5″ average. We’re thankful for the water, and we’re relishing sunny weather.
We’ve received only 71% of our normal rainfall since January 2013. This deficit of more than 20″ of rain is more than a year’s normal rainfall.
Our temperatures returned to the usual — normal temperatures during the day and above-normal at night.
After the drought
When The New York Times asked “Do you think these past three years have produced permanent changes in how Californians use water?”, California’s water czar responded
With respect to urban water use, 50 percent of which on average is used on outdoor ornamental landscapes, folks have learned how much they can save outdoors, and how hard it actually can be to kill a lawn. But, we’ve got to value and learn to water our trees separately. …In agriculture, we’ve seen even greater implementation of efficiency in water, pesticide, and fertilizer targeting.
The point about watering trees is important. Several large redwood trees by the freeway near us died during the drought, probably because they received no supplemental water.
California’s reservoirs are full, permitting them to generate more hydropower than during the drought.
In an average year, 15 to 18 percent of California’s electricity generation comes from hydroelectric centers, said Gleick of the Pacific Institute. During the drought, he said, that number fell to less than 10 percent on average.
That deficit had to be made up from other sources, primarily the burning of natural gas, Gleick said, creating more greenhouse gas emissions.
However, San Francisco Chronicle reports that the “surge of hydropower could force cutbacks of solar, wind“.
Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the system operator, said that California’s policies requiring increasing amounts of energy to be produced from renewable sources have boosted the amount of solar power.
“If the amount of excess supply we have on the grid is during the mid-morning and mid-afternoons, it’s likely that solar will be high on the list to curtail,” Greenlee said, adding that wind power production is likely to be curbed as well. Natural gas plants could also be affected.
Hopefully, the state will curtail fossil fuel plants before cutting back on solar and wind power production.
Because the aquifer in California’s Central Valley has been overpumped, the ground is subsiding. As a result, the aqueduct carrying water to southern California is sinking. The aqueduct depends on water flowing downhill so continued subsidence can be serious.
NASA’s Farr said land near the “Avenal hot spot” along the California Aqueduct has dropped 25 inches between 2013 and 2016.
“It just keeps going,” Farr said. “Avenal has developed the whole time, impinging on the aqueduct. I think it will cost a lot … a high-ticket item.”