Water is for Fighting Over

The American Southwest has always been parched, so water supplies become overextended as farms and cities grow. John Fleck’s Water is for Fighting Over examines legal and political fights and settlements for water from the Colorado River.


From this experience we can find lessons learned and paths to share water.


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Los Altos Weather — Average Rainfall Through November

My home town of Los Altos, California, received normal rainfall the past two months, after four months of no rain. California cities have reduce water use by 20% from three years ago, and California is making some water conservation measures permanent.

Shown above, the toyon (heteromeles arbutifolia) is a California-native shrub that bears clusters of small, red, berry-like fruits around Christmas. Growing in the hills above Los Angeles, the toyon “gave rise to the name Hollywood”.

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Water is for Fightin’

Faced with last month’s call to leave more water for fish and wildlife, San Francisco started a fight for water, authoring a guest editorial stating “The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy.” In a separate action that spreads the water fight to a vast watershed that supplies southern California and the Bay Area, the California State Water Board said “scientific information indicates that restoration of more natural flow functions is needed now to halt and reverse the species declines”.

Our rainy season is off to a good start. In October, we received 1.72″ of rain, more than twice the normal .76″.

With cooling temperatures and rain, native plants are reviving after the hot and dry summer. Shown above, a California polypody (polypodium californicum) shakes off summer dormancy in late October, sending up fiddleheads in a thicket of snowberry (symphoricarpos albus). Both grow in the deep shade of a California live oak (quercus agrifolia), and all are California native plants.

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Los Altos Weather: Warm, Dry February

Although this year’s El Niño promised rain, Los Altos, California, had little rain in February 2016. We received .38″ of rain in February, about a tenth of our normal 3.31″. For the rain year that started in October, we are 3.64″ below normal, and our three rainiest months just passed. Our dry summer season starts in April, so our drought will probably continue.

With the warm February, our bee’s bliss sage started blooming, and the bees love it. A hybrid of California native sages, bee’s bliss sage is a ground cover that’s especially beautiful at this time of year, with glorious blossoms filled with buzzing bees. Photo taken March 1.

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Los Altos Weather: Colder November

November in our town of Los Altos, California, was sharply colder, with the average high temperature plunging 15 degrees from October. The sudden cold triggered fall colors. The featured photo above is a western redbud, cercis occidentalis, a California native plant. The red seedpods in the background set off the yellow leaves. A haiku for autumn:

The morning sun shines
from dewdrops on tattered leaves --
fall fades to winter.

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Los Altos Weather – Hot and Dry September

September is always beautiful in northern California — warm and dry. But this September was our the warmest month in the past three years, hotter than even our summer months. Coupled with little rain, the hot weather extends the stress on our plants during our drought.

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Los Altos Weather – August Dry As Usual

As California’s drought continues through our dry summer, urban water users locally and throughout California have dramatically reduced water usage. Our local aquifer is looking good, but in the Central Valley, ground subsidence and fish are much worse.

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