Thursday, February 26, 2015
A Different Kind of "Snow" in California, and a Coming World of Hurt
The almond blossoms are one of the earliest fruit and nut trees to bloom. The pink peach blossoms are just getting started. Things look great right now. The valley floor is green with grass and the ground is moist, because here in the valley, our rainfall totals are actually ahead of normal in some places. In Modesto so far this year, 10.70 inches of rain has fallen, when 8.45 inches is normal. Last year at this time, we had received a paltry 3.26 inches.
So this is good news, right? Not really. It's good that the orchards didn't need a February "drink" from the irrigation system. It's good that the ranches in the foothills have some of the best grazing conditions in a couple of years. But it won't last. The normal rainfall in our valley was not matched by normal precipitation in the Sierra Nevada, and that is where the precipitation counts. The snowpack in the Sierra is barely a quarter of normal right now, meaning very low runoff in the spring, and almost no irrigation water available for the hot summer months.
These are hard questions, and they will have to lead to some hard choices. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my very colorful commute through the blooming fields and orchards. Spring is always a time of hope and rebirth, and there are still six or seven weeks left in the rainy season. Who knows what could happen?