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Farmers Almanac
The 2016 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Parched: Dealing with Drought

Parched: Dealing with Drought

While the Eastern half of the country wonders when winter weather will finally end, southwestern states, from California east into Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas, are left wondering why it never seemed to come in the first place.

California, in particular, has experienced its warmest, and third driest, winter on record. Snowpack across the southwest is less than half the normal amount. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that nearly 100% of the Golden State is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions, nearly three-quarters of which is considered “extreme” or, worse, “exceptional.” And though the region did see some rainfall in February, it wasn’t enough to turn things around.

Entering spring, and eventually summer, our forecast doesn’t offer much hope for relief. We’re predicting a few heavy showers later this month, and into April, followed by an extremely hot and dry summer.

Any spring showers that do fall on the bone dry region are unlikely to reverse the severe deficit of moisture already in effect, while the high temperatures and below-average temperatures predicted for summer will only serve to make the situation more desperate. Weather and economic experts are already predicting a season of wildfires, food shortages, and increased food prices. These impacts will be far-reaching; more than half of fruits, vegetables, and nuts consumed in the United States come from California. The state is also the top dairy-producer in the nation.

California Governor Jerry Brown has called on his constituents to do their part to lessen the impact of this natural disaster by conserving as much water as possible.

Here are some suggestions for saving water we’ve offered in the past. Other recommendations include:
– Run the dishwasher only when full to save water and energy.
– Install aerators on the kitchen faucet to reduce flows to less than 1 gallon per minute.
– When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
– Dishwashers typically use less water than washing dishes by hand.
– If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
– Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
– Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
– Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator.
– Cook food in as little water as possible. This not only saves water, but also helps to retain more nutrients.
– Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.
– Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables and use it to water houseplants.
– Install low-flow shower heads.
– Reduce your shower time to five minutes. Save up to 25 gallons.
– Fill the bathtub halfway or less. Or, better yet, take a short shower instead of a bath. A bathtub can use up to 70 gallons of water.
– Install aerators on bathroom faucets. Save: 1.2 Gallons Per Person/Day
– Turn the water off when brushing teeth or shaving. Save: Approximately 10 Gallons/Day
– Install a high-efficiency toilet. Save: 19 Gallons Per Person/Day Read more about toilets.
– Never use your toilet as a wastebasket.
– Test your toilet for leaks. Put food coloring in the tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it and start saving gallons.
– Consider buying a dual-flush toilet. It has two flush options: a half-flush for liquid waste and a full-flush for solid waste.
– Plug the sink instead of running the water to rinse your razor and save up to 300 gallons a month.
– Turn off the water while washing your hair and save up to 150 gallons a month.
– When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.

Tips courtesy of


1 Elaine { 04.09.14 at 5:23 pm }

Having been raised in Southern Cal we did a few things for our family of six to save water in drought times that became second nature to this day. We took military showers – rinse, turn off water, soap and shampoo, turn water on for rinsing. No long showers in our home. Clothes worn more than once, except skivvies. Washing machine soap was biodegradable and used to keep grass green. Only full loads were washed at a time. Perennials were natural to the area thus drought resistant. Boy did the helicopters fly overhead for that with a few visits from the highway patrol and county police. My brothers and I even washed cars when it rained! Los Angeles Co would heavily fine residents for excess water usage in the 70’s. Car washes were shut down until the advent of reusing water. Toilets not flushed just because we urinated (only during drought and before the advent of dual flush toilets. We also cut back on electricity, grilled more, had no swamp cooler or air conditioning, rejoiced when the pipeline finally came over the Grapevine and still continued to save water.

Drip irrigation developed and studied at college in So Cal intended for Africa was used commercially in California in the 70’s and homes of the students who learned about it. More ranches, ours included went to automatic waterers for livestock.In the 70s and 80s, California farmers and ranchers could feed the world seven times a year. Does anyone really want to limit water access to the agricultural component of California? I like those foods I cannot grow in the South to be cost efficient.

City business installed automatic faucets and toilets, caught rain water to use in more efficient sprinkler systems to water their landscaping.

Historically California has had mudslides and fires going back hundreds of years. Archeologists have proved the Indian and Spanish stories discussing the beautiful sunsets were caused by pollution due to the fires even back then. When it rains, it pours, the soil cannot take on great amounts of water at any one time and the adobe releases. It would be great if California only received a “good garden rain”…”but girl don’t they warn you, it pours, man it pours”. California is the most diversified state in the union from beaches to desert both high and low to mountains that are so tall there is a tree line. Please don’t assume the whole state is a desert, never has been, most likely won’t be. Though I always heard it will fall off into the ocean… Approximately 1/10 of the United States lives in California. Do you want them to shut the borders down so people can’t move in? They need water. They need rain, an easy garden rain, before the Santa Ana’s (wind) come in. Maybe a little intercessory prayer will help along with that rain dance?

2 RANDY { 03.26.14 at 8:12 pm }


3 Peter Kane { 03.26.14 at 6:20 pm }

With an upcoming El Niño, the drought should, at least, be alleviated. The reason why California is in a drought because the Pacific Decadal Oscillation overall since 1999 is negative. A positive phase is the warm phase while the negative phase is the opposite of the warm phase. Regardless of what phase it is in, each PDO phase lasts 15-30 years. Since we have been in the negative PDO phase for 15 years, I think we will soon head to a warm phase. The warm phase, if it does not change this year, will come within the next 5-10 years. I have realized a pattern that the negative PDO phases have been getting shorter and the positive PDO phases getting longer.

4 Lew Erhart { 03.26.14 at 3:23 pm }

California’s population has doubled in the last thirty years and the forward looking (GREEN) the State has built exactly ZERO new water systems in fact has curtailed supply in order to preserve the Delta smelt. I would not be surprised if your government shuts off your H20to water tumbleweeds as they are becoming endangered due to fires. YOU LIVE IN A DESERT!!! build more water system quit stealing othersStates supply and SHUT UP.

5 Lyn Fullerton { 03.26.14 at 3:09 pm }

I was thinking about all the landscaping in the cities and first thought was “not necessary” …but then realized ….wait ….the trees and plants are good for shade and oxygen in the air …. so everyone should use common sense and do their part as much as possible. There is still too much waste, IMO.

6 Hilde { 03.26.14 at 1:47 pm }

My sister’s mother in law lived on S.S., a low fixed income, and her water bill was 10.00 to 15.00 a month because she sponge bathed, used a wash and rinse water to do dishes, and microwaved her food with little water. She was a budget minded person, not realizing she was an environmentalist!

7 Patricia Adams { 03.26.14 at 12:28 pm }

is the water from my roof that looks yellow and smell like roof tiles safe to water my plants

8 Randy { 03.26.14 at 12:03 pm }

We should catch some of the rain from other parts of the country and pipe it to the southwest.

9 Ken { 03.26.14 at 11:37 am }

We used to get the Indian drunk on Friday or Saturday night an get him to do a rain dance.
Worked every time, sometimes started raining before we left the club!

10 rita { 03.26.14 at 10:34 am }

Let’s install Laundry to Landscape systems and take the washing machine water out to the gardens and install rain gardens off the roof gutters! That’s where the real good will come!

11 Richard { 03.26.14 at 10:25 am }

It seems to me that all the saving ideas are mostly for people at home and landowners; country people. How about the city government buildings and business start leading the way for saving ideas and then maybe the people at home will follow suit.

12 Val { 03.26.14 at 9:45 am }

I can agree with some of your post Bob. But piping water is not going to stop the wasteful use of water. People need to learn how to use less so that there is no waste or the effort is wasted.

13 bob armstrong { 03.26.14 at 9:39 am }

stop spending money on trying to sort out other countries political problems and fighting other peoples wars and spend money on irrigation,lay pipelines from heavy rain areas to drought areas

14 Val { 03.26.14 at 9:35 am }

use mulch to lessen water needs ………. also try no till gardens. Tilling drys out the ground.

15 Ruthann { 03.26.14 at 9:29 am }

Place a rain barrel at each downspout around the house. Use that water to water plants etc.

16 CHARLIE { 03.26.14 at 9:07 am }

Homeowners Quit washing the decks, concrete sidewalks, driveways, quit watering the lawns!!!
Then at all industrial, commercial, government buildings, stop the automatic sprinklers coming on etc….Anyone have any other ideas??

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