By Sierra Maciorowski
Sorry, skiers and snowboarders, fishers and farmers: next year’s conditions will probably not give you any thrills. With reservoirs still at around 30% of normal water levels, and the Sierras’ snowpack at 32% of average, according to National Geographic, the next few years could destroy some parts of the California lifestyle.
For many, the recent rains have taken the edge off of winter’s fears. The hills are green, the apple trees have blossomed, and spring feels like any other year. As the school year draws to a close, forgetting the traditional dryness of a California summer is extremely easy. After all, occasional showers in April sound normal, right?
Wrong. Although the April showers may lead to May flowers, those flowers could be dead by summer, with such a meager total rainfall. Even worse, the fruits of those flowers could be dead, and with them one of California’s most important industries– agriculture. Since the biggest water projects are running out of resources to send to farms, the drought could force the state to import pricey produce.
So, in the near future, California staples like lettuce, avocados, and berries, could reach disastrously high prices. Love your guacamole? It may cost $1.60 per avocado this summer. Adore your caesar salads? Expect to pay 30 to 62 cents more per head. Prefer to feast on berries and fruit salads? The days of two-clamshells-for-three-dollars may have disappeared years ago, but $3.46 could be your new price.
But don’t blame the farmers, or your local Safeway. With the possibility that 10-20% of crops could be lost this year, the drought deserves all the blame. And, to some extent, so do you. After all, chances are your optimism at the moment has not reduced your water usage.
On the destructive end of the drought-impact spectrum, the fire season is already beginning. Unfortunately for marshmallow-lovers and camping-fanatics, that means severe campfire limitations- and, for the rest, a smoky summer.
Fire risk will be high all summer, especially during windy patches. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, although recent rains reduced short-term concerns, the long-run dangers are still severe. Wildland fire risks are above average in Northern California at the moment, and by July the NIFC estimates that dangers will be significantly above normal.
Now, in normal conditions, you could be advised to water your lawns, keep everything green, and clear out dry brush. Yet with the drought looming over our heads, only the latter is possible. Instead of watering the lawn, consider replacing it, and instead of keeping everything green, be strategic. Anything touching a building or rising over it should be maintained, but distant flowers may need to pass away.
So, as we transition into summer, the balance between fire safety and drought awareness will be a constant struggle. The air will be smokier than your neighbor’s barbecue fumes alone, and keeping the lawn green may result in skyrocketing water bills. But for now we can content ourselves with the fact that we did see this coming– and anyone who takes steps now to re-examine water habits can thank themselves in the heat of August.