Tag Archives: drought

  • Rattlesnakes at Your Door?

    Just in case you thought we’d exhausted the topic of bizarrely unpleasant side effects of the drought plaguing the Western US, here’s one more to chuck on the pile: rattlesnakes. According to CBS News, scarcity of ground water is driving rodents closer to homes and neighborhoods to quench their thirst. And where the vermin go, the snakes follow, with the result that “Rattlesnakes are Slithering Closer to Homes in Northern California.”

    The snake removal specialist quoted in the article reports a record year for his business, netting over 70 snakes in a single week. Incidentally, he keeps them alive in a room and releases them back into the wild—which, if you live in Sacramento, may not be the most comforting part of the article.

    I mean, not to creep anybody out, but RATTLESNAKES!

    I’m knocking on all kinds of wood as I tell you that I happen to live in a part of the country where rattlesnakes aren’t found, but I did have a glancing encounter with one as a kid at camp. As I remember it, one of my grown-up relatives took a shovel to the creature and lopped off its head—a technique frowned upon by the reliable sources below, I’m sure.

    So, what does one do if one comes across one of these nasty pieces of work, whether on the trail or in your garage? First of all, do your homework!

    • The US Forest Service offers a Snake Safety handout, with precautions, first aid, and some really enlightening snake facts. My favorite is the DOs and DON’Ts section—turns out Hollywood’s old cut-and-suck method is a no-no.
    • Washington State’s Trail Association has a page dedicated specifically to “How to Hike in Rattlesnake Country.” Tips include how to identify signs that a rattler is near, how to safely photograph snakes, and what special considerations to make when hiking with dogs.

     

    With all the other drama of this particular crisis, I really hope an infestation isn’t part of your experience this year. But if it is, learn what you need to do to keep your household safe. And for more info on other biters, stingers, and suckers, see our “First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings.”

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: drought, wildlife, snakes, California Drought

  •  California's Liquid Gold: Drought Time Water Prices

    Not to beat a parched horse, but here’s an angle on the drought in the western US that we hadn’t considered. Turns out the shortage of water in California is making millionaires out of individuals and organizations with extra stores or claims to private sources.

    According to the AP, in an article titled, “In Dry California, Water Fetching Record Prices,” the price of water has increased by ten times in the last five years, reaching past $2000 per acre-foot. The resource is sold at auctions, with large farms and cities among the bidders. One private water storage district in Bakersfield wrangled in $13.5 million in a single transaction!

    One of the most interesting points in the article is the description of water banks—essentially massive, underground water storage facilities where surplus is banked in years of plenty. Kind of makes my rain barrel look a little paltry!

    On the other hand, if each of us took a page from California’s most prudent large-scale water storage facilities, maybe we’d be less dependent on the kinds of exorbitant transactions that grow out of desperate demand.

    For example, smart home water storage might help maintain a garden during a drought, easing the pain of increased produce costs at the grocery store—the inevitable trickle-down as farms pay through the nose to irrigate commercial crops. (Read about both of these ideas in our articles, “Your Drought Year Garden,” and “How Does the California Drought Affect Your Grocery List?”)

    In any case, it’s all a great reminder of the importance of preparation, storage, and self-sufficiency in times of disaster or scarcity.

     

    What has your experience been with droughts and the cost of food, water, or other resources?

     

    -Stacey

    For more tips about water storage check out:

    45 Ways to Conserve Water

    Water Storage Overview

    Water Storage Options

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Current Events, drought, California Drought, Preparedness In The News

  • Drought Update: Lake Powell's Bleakest Year Yet

    We’ve talked a lot this year about the destructive drought choking the western US. And while California gets most of the attention (check out UNL’s drought monitor and their frighteningly visual perspective on California’s situation), other states are suffering, as well. In fact, the drop in a single reservoir is affecting residents of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah—and California! This headline from the Daily Mail sums up the dangerous situation:

    “Satellite images reveal mud-choked Lake Powell is LESS than half full and has hit a record low as the Western drought continues to strain major reservoirs”

    The article, which features a chilling image gallery of the barely recognizable vacation spot, reports that Lake Powell currently sits at 42% of its capacity, with experts estimating that this year’s snowmelt will only bring it up to about 51%. And it’s not just bad news for boaters. The man-made reservoir serves as a source of drinking water for 20 million people living across the west, and the Glen Canyon dam that regulates the reservoir provides hydroelectric power to the area.

    While forecasters predict a cool, wet “El Niño” year for 2014, Eric Holthaus over at Slate.com explains why that won’t be enough to recover from this decade-plus long dry spell in his article, “What Does El Niño Mean For Me?”. With no end in sight, then, how can we…er…weather this storm?

    For ideas on ways to prepare against the effects of severe drought, check out these helpful posts:

    And for a recap of this year’s drought and its unexpected effects, read here:

     

    What are you doing differently this year because of the drought?

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Current Events, drought, Preparedness In The News

  • By now, most of you have probably seen this historic image of the California snowpack. In January, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released photos showing the dramatic effect the California drought has had on the state’s landscape and snowpack.

    As the picture below shows, much of the greenery, snowpack depth, and precipitation in California’s Sierra region has dramatically decreased within just a year. According to Southern California’s NBC affiliate station, the runoff from the California mountain range is a key source of water for California communities and growers. It accounts for about one-third of the state’s water.

     California Snowpack

    In late March, the Sierra Nevada region received some much needed snowfall, but Mark Cowin, Department of Water Resources director, believed even then that the drought was far from over. Fast forward to early April—surveyors skied into the Sierra Nevada to measure the snowpack level. Surveyors measure the amount of water that melts from the snowpack into the streams and reservoirs below. In April, the snowpack was about 32 percent of the average water content.

    The most recent measurement of the snowpack, taken on May 1st, reveals that the situation is not getting any better. After taking the final measurement of the snowpack for the wet season, California’s Department of Water Resources revealed that the snowpack is now at 18 percent of its average water content level. SoCal’s NBC news station states, “Water managers have said the northern Sierra snowpack that feeds California's major reservoirs is 9 percent of average, and those reservoirs are only half full.”

    Since the snowpack is a major source of water in the state, its depletion is a serious issue for the entire state, especially with the hot and dry summer months approaching.

    As Mark Cowin stated, “This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.” You can take simple steps now to practice water conservation. Learn how to conserve water by taking our “Gallon Challenge—EE Style” You’ll be surprised by how much water you use in a typical day, especially when you only have one gallon for your cooking, drinking, and sanitation needs. Use this challenge to determine how much water to have in your family’s home water storage.

     

    If you would like to know what to do to begin conserving water, check out this article to get started: 45 Ways to Conserve Water.

    What tips do you have for conserving water?

    --Angela

    Photo Courtesy of National Journal

     

    Sources

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/the-california-drought-as-seen-from-space-20140204

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Sierra-Nevada-Snowpack-California-Drought-257500871.html

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  • This post is the third installment of a three-part series highlighting the 2014 California Drought. Check out Part Two of the Series: The Effects of California's Driest Year

    The California drought rages on, leaving lands dry and barren. Farm/ranch owners and laborers throughout the west are directly impacted by the drought. The owners have to slaughter or sell off livestock for lack of feed and refrain from planting their usual crops, which means cutting their own income and providing less work for laborers and truckers.

    Shortages naturally drive prices up at the market, and you’ve probably already seen higher costs on meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products as farmers produce less. (It takes from two to twelve months for the full effects of a drought to become obvious at the marketplace.) California’s produce industry is normally a $44.7 billion annual business, but as the drought continues, that number will shrink dramatically.

     

    California Water Agriculture

    Drought in California's Central Valley

    On May 19th, 2014, the results of a study conducted by the University of California’s Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences reported that the California drought could cause as many as 14,500 full-time and seasonal jobs to be lost. In addition to job loss, the drought will cost California’s Central Valley (one of the most affluent farming communities in the world) to lose $1.7 billion dollars.

    Since many farmers in the Central Valley rely on irrigation, rather than rain to grow their crops, they are purchasing supplies from federal and state projects to pump water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta or are pumping water from wells—but these are costly ventures.

    California’s farm industry makes up $1.9 trillion of the state’s gross domestic product for the year, and as such, the governor is helping the farmers by easing some of the state’s water rights regulations. But as we know, the decrease in farming and produce production from the California farm industry does not just impact California alone.

    CBS News suggests that “the direction of national food prices [are less than certain] as the drought grinds on. California agriculture produces close to half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in America…”

    Prices Climb as the Drought Rages on

    As prices increase, some shoppers will look for alternative sources or choices, while others will simply do without their usual fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Customers may simply refuse to buy overpriced produce, allowing it to get old on the shelves rather than pay what is asked.

    California exports a tremendous volume of produce and meat overseas—and it remains to be seen how foreign customers will react to price increases. Will vendors and restaurant owners still order from California, or turn to other temperate climate sources such as Spain, Italy, and Israel? And once their status in the industry is lost, will California be able to regain it when the rain returns? Since western droughts can last for decades, a lot of things seem up in the air.

    According to Scientific American, California received little to no rain during the region’s wet season from December to March. And by the beginning of April, nearly 70 percent of the state was in extreme to exceptional drought. As of May, the entire state is now experiencing “severe” drought.

     

    In the meantime, it might be a very good idea to purchase some long-lasting, freeze-dried fruits, veggies, and meats before those items become scarce and prices skyrocket. Now is also the time to start conserving water wherever you can—every little bit will help. Try the “Gallon Challenge—EEStyle” to see if you and your family can each survive on a gallon of water for one day!

    -Sharon, Kim, and Angela

    Sources:

    www.blogs.usda.gov/2012/08/10/us-drought-and-your-food-costs

    www.theundergroundsite.com/california-drought-could-impact-world-food-prices

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/30/california-drought-effects-500-years_n_4647529.html

    www.trippapparel.com/2014/18697

    www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Feature/LakeMead

    www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/02/14/obama-california-drought-aid-vilsack/5479121

    www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/politics/obama-to-announce-aid-for-drought-racked-california.html?r=0

    www.westernfarmpress.com/blog/obama-administration-misses-boat-drought-assistance

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-drought-taking-a-toll-on-jobs-economy/

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/20/us-usa-california-drought-jobs-idUSBREA4J01M20140520

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/100-percent-of-california-now-in-highest-stages-of-drought/

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  • The Effects of California's Driest Year

    This post is the second installment of a three-part series highlighting the 2014 California Drought. Check out Part One of the series: "California Drought: Four Months in Review

    For the last three to four years, drought conditions have spread all across the western US, but recently, California has been hit the hardest, facing dry temperatures and withered land. The following infographic from Drought Monitor shows you just how dry (and as a result, at risk for fires) certain areas of California are. 100% of the state of California is now in “severe” to exceptional drought.

    California Drought Monitor

    Conservation Mode

    The state is in emergency water conservation mode until further notice. According to Kathleen Miles from the Huffington Post, Governor Brown has advised residents to cut their water use by 20%. Homeowners who don’t promptly fix leaks have been fined by city governments.

    Coin-operated car washes must only use recycled water. Restaurants and private citizens are encouraged to use paper plates and cups, and water is served in restaurants only upon customer request. Newly-constructed swimming pools may not be filled. Earlier in the year, cities were squabbling over who gets how much water; and in Mendocino County, the sheriff’s office is keeping a close eye out for water thieves who try to pump water from Lake Mendocino into trucks and haul it away to sell or use.

    According to a Huffington Post article from May 16th, 40 city employees in Sacramento have even been “re-designated as ‘water cops’ tasked with reporting and responding to wasteful maintenance.”

    Industry Affected

    Tourism is also adversely affected. California’s ski industry struggled all winter for the lack of snow. Fishing has been banned in several rivers to protect drought-stricken salmon and steelhead trout that may be in danger of extinction if the drought continues. The wine industry is also suffering, with grapes growing slowly and ripening before they’ve reached mature size.

    Wildfires Increase

    California is especially vulnerable to wildfires during times of drought. On average, 69 fires are reported monthly during normal conditions; however, just from January 1 to January 25 of this year, 406 wildfires were reported. The California wildfire season typically occurs during the summer and fall, but the drought has caused wildfires to become an all-year-round occurrence.

    According to the National Journal, as of May 15th “brush fires in California had burned nearly 10,000 acres, destroyed 30 homes, threatened multiple military facilities, and forced thousands to evacuate.” The state has also faced a series of heat waves, with highs between 98 and 106 degrees F that are not helping the situation.

     

    These drought conditions are severely taking a toll on daily life in California and other areas in the west. Check out our Insight Articles to help you conserve water in the future by building up your own water storage supply today:

    Tomorrow, check out Part III of our California Drought Series  "California Drought: the Impact on Farming and Produce"

    -Sharon, Kim, and Angela

    Photo Courtesy of the United States Drought Monitor

    Editor's Note:  Correction to a statement made in an earlier version of this article. Lawn watering and car washing has not yet been banned in California. Watering has been reduced to two days a week and car washing has not been reduced yet. Residents are asked not to water sidewalks in an effort to conserve water.

     

    Sources:

    www.blogs.usda.gov/2012/08/10/us-drought-and-your-food-costs

    www.theundergroundsite.com/california-drought-could-impact-world-food-prices

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/30/california-drought-effects-500-years_n_4647529.html

    www.trippapparel.com/2014/18697

    www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Feature/LakeMead

    www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/02/14/obama-california-drought-aid-vilsack/5479121

    www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/politics/obama-to-announce-aid-for-drought-racked-california.html?r=0

    www.westernfarmpress.com/blog/obama-administration-misses-boat-drought-assistance

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/16/california-drought_n_5340596.html

    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/california-s-wildfire-season-has-ravaged-nearly-10-000-acres-so-far-20140515

    http://www.capradio.org/articles/2014/02/06/drought-forces-broadest-fishing-ban-in-state-coho-at-risk-of-extinction/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  • California Drought: Four Months in Review

    This post is the first installment of a three-part series highlighting the 2014 California Drought. 

    All the western states, including California, are naturally subject to periods of drought. But according to B. Lynn Ingram, University of California Earth Science professor, a study of tree rings shows California’s current drought to be the most severe in the last 500 years.

    Not only did California receive zero rainfall this January (normally the rainiest month of the year), recent past conditions have illustrated the decline in moisture. In 2013, California received a total of 7 inches of rain; the average yearly total is 22 inches. The Sierra snowpack, which gives California 1/3 of its water, was 88% below normal as of January 30, 2013.

    In early 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared the state a “primary natural disaster area,” and President Obama announced over $190 million in drought aid. With almost twice as many fires and acres burned between January and March of this year than last year, California needed more than light rain and overcast skies to pull them from this drought. Unfortunately, over four months later, California has not seen the type of precipitation to pull them out of the drought and reduce wildfires in the state.

    The lack of rain over the past few months has led some, such as the Santa Clara Valley Water District, to alert cities and companies that only 80 percent of requested treated drinking water will be provided for the rest of the year. The companies and cities losing this water typically provide it for about 1.5 million people. However, it’s not only thirsty cities receiving less treated drinking water, but irrigated farmlands are forced to turn to alternate sources of water such as wells.

    During our lifetimes, we’ve become accustomed to California being the garden of the nation, producing nearly half of the fruit, nuts, and vegetables for the whole country. The sight of fallow fields, blowing dust, or browned seedlings failing in the heat is an image we associate more with the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma back in the 1930s than with California. But that may not be the case this year unless there’s a significant change in the weather.

    National Journal reporter, Marina Koren, believes that in order “to break its historic drought, California would need to see 9 to 15 inches of precipitation in one month. That’s more than half a year’s worth of average rainfall for the state.” This lack of precipitation for the state has created water restrictions.

    A water restriction for both irrigation and drinking (whether due to drought, a chemical spill, or another emergency) is a great reason to keep your [water storage] up to date. Check out these articles to learn more about the importance of water storage:

     

    -Sharon, Kim, and Angela

    Come back in the next couple of days to check out the rest of our California Drought Series:

    Part II “The Effects of CA's Driest Year"

    Part III "How does  the CA Drought Effect your Grocery List?"

     

    Photo Courtesy of the Huffington Post via the Associated Press

    Sources:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_25411117/california-drought-silicon-valley-cities-and-farms-hit

    http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats

    http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/hdfForecast?query=california&MR=1

    www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/02/14/obama-california-drought-aid-vilsack/5479121

    www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/politics/obama-to-announce-aid-for-drought-racked-california.html?r=0

    www.westernfarmpress.com/blog/obama-administration-misses-boat-drought-assistance

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  • The Rain Barrel: SoCal's Hot New Accessory

    If California’s (no) water situation seems to be taking up a lot of our attention, it’s because certain circumstances, while unfortunate, provide us opportunities to talk about good preparedness practices that may otherwise slip off our radar.

    Here’s a pretty cool example. In response to record low precipitation levels, some Southern California cities have implemented what they’re calling “no-brainer, low-hanging fruit solution[s]” for water independence—policies and projects geared to reclaiming and recycling local water.

    An ABC News story from earlier this month describes the rainwater collection system that waters the Santa Monica city library’s extensive gardens, as well as the water recycling plant near the famous pier that supplies irrigation to several local parks and schools.

    And individuals are catching on. The same article calls resident Josephine Miller’s 205 gallon rain barrel “fashionable,” as neighborhoods dive in to take advantage of local government rebates for home water conservation. While your city hall may not pay you for your efforts, rainwater storage makes efficient use of one of the few free resources at our disposal. Just make sure it’s legal to do so in your city or state, first.

    So, if you’re interested in harnessing some May showers for yourself, here are a handful of tips, tutorials, and helpful products.

    • Heard worrisome things about using roof-collected rainwater on edible plants? Educate yourself on the real and not-so-real risks, courtesy Rutgers’ cooperative extension.

     

    Here’s wishing you a happy and drippy spring!

    --Stacey

    Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: water storage, drought

  • Your Drought-Year Garden

    If you’re like me, a sunny afternoon in March finds you tearing through your Territorial seed catalogue and poring over cryptic drawings of garden plots. It’s like I can hear my backyard’s biological clock ticking and I can’t wait another minute to get outside!

    As part of your preparations for your 2014 garden, you’re probably checking out seed calendars and companion planting charts. Here’s one more graphic you might want to consider from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

    How will your garden do in your area during this drought?

    Experts are calling the current western dry spell one of the “worst droughts in 500 years”, severely affecting the supply of drinking water, as well as that for crop irrigation. In fact, one of the most far-reaching effects of even a localized drought in an agricultural state like California is rising produce prices across the country (read about food storage and drought here).

    In that light, gardening may seem like a smart way to beat the heat. However, if you live in any of the highlighted areas on the map above, there are some serious considerations for the home gardener. Some Californians have already been required to restrict water use. Your neighborhood may not be in quite such dire straights, but there are ways all of us can garden a little more conservatively in a dry year.

    Check out these tips and tricks for gardening in lean times:

    Water conservation is a good idea any time, but this year seems to be providing us a compelling reason to conserve. Read about California’s challenges and some solutions you can implement at home and in the garden. Then get outside and get those peas in the ground!

    Sources:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/us/severe-drought-has-us-west-fearing-worst.html

    Photo Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, preparedness, water, Emergency, Survival, water storage, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, drought, produce

  •  The Long, Hot Winter: The California Drought

    While the Northeast and Midwest shiver through one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent history, other parts of the country would trade their palm trees and avocados for just a little rainfall. Earlier this month, California’s governor declared an official drought emergency. Ten other states have also been labeled as “disaster sites” by Federal Agriculture officials.

    Parts of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah are all facing historically low water levels. The lakes and reservoirs losing water in these states have led to decreased water supplies in the West. This prolonged dry spell has even contributed to several wildfires.

    According to NBC news, Governor Brown believes this is the worst drought California has seen in 100 years. He’s asking Californians to cut their water usage by 20 percent.

    Since everyday services (like gas and electricity) are not affected by droughts, it can be hard to think of a drought as an emergency situation. However, it still doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Having a ready supply of home water storage will help you during a drought. See our water storage products  for more great options to beat a drought or another emergency.

    For helpful tips on how to save water in a drought, check out Fema.gov’s  list of water conservation tips. Also, this “Water—Use it Wisely” infographic illustrates 100+ ways to conserve water you may have never considered before.

    Learn how to conserve water by taking our “Water Challenge: One Gallon of Water for One Day.” You’ll be surprised at how much water you use in a typical day, especially when you only have one gallon for your cooking, drinking, and sanitation needs. Use this challenge to determine how much water to store for your family’s home water storage. Most people find that they want the "luxury" of a few additional gallons per day.

     

    --Stacey and Angela

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: water, water storage, drought

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