Completed in 1966, the Glen Canyon Dam holds back the Colorado River to flood Glen Canyon, forming Lake Powell just upstream from Horseshoe Bend. Looking at the height of white bathtub ring, the water level doesn’t look down much, but a park ranger told me that the reservoir had risen to 55% full after the past wet winter.
Lake Powell loses water to evaporation and leakage; I wondered if the water loss is significant. Running the numbers, Lake Powell loses enough water to supply over half (57%) the people in the San Francisco Bay Area with water — every year. After weathering years of drought, the water loss from Lake Powell is very significant.
An atmospheric river flowed over northern California in January. My home town of Los Altos (near San Francisco) received 5.4″ of rain in January, with measurable rain on 17 out of 31 days.
Northern California reservoirs are full, and the snowpack in our mountains is above normal. Therefore, California’s water distribution system has water to distribute to urban users and farmers, but our forests and fish have not recovered from the drought. Southern California still hasn’t received much rain, but our aqueducts will transport water south. Our filled reservoirs will enable the state to generate more hydroelectric power, reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide generation.
Visiting San Francisco between January storms, we saw this juvenile, red-tailed hawk hovering in the wind near the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind blew from the ocean, hit the cliffs, and swept upward — enabling the hawk to hover in the wind. The hawk’s tail is pointing down to provide additional lift, just as airplanes extend their flaps when landing and taking off. The hawk is peering down at the surf, scanning for food. Below, the hawk is near the bridge.
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.
“Whisky’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’” is a colorful and insightful saying attributed to Mark Twain. In the fifth year of California’s drought, we may see this as San Francisco’s progressive reputation is tested.
California released draft rules requiring more water in the San Joaquin River by restricting water taken for agriculture and urban users. San Francisco imports its water from this watershed. “San Francisco is expected to challenge the rule, although how aggressively remains to be seen. ‘We intend to participate in that process,’ said Sheehan, the utility agency spokesman.”
Continuing my monthly posts about California’s drought, my home town of Los Altos received zero rainfall for the fourth consecutive month, about normal for us.
Above, a western gray squirrel gathers bunchgrass and blue-eyed grass for its nest. Blue-eyed grass, sisyrinchium bellum, is a California native plant bearing blue flowers in the spring.
In our town of Los Altos, California, we had no rain in July and August, as usual, during the dry summer of our Mediterranean climate. August was our third consecutive month with no rain, and California’s drought is in its fifth year.
Above, a female Anna’s hummingbird sips on blossoms in our backyard in July.