The autumnal equinox is behind us, and winter looms. Time to do some clean up in the Bay Area garden, get the winter planting done, and get ready to ease into the slow lane. Commercial or Residential
- Although we sometimes have downright hot days, the overall evaporation rate is slowing as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. That means you can start reducing your irrigation schedule or, depending on what you’re growing, cut it off completely.
- If we don’t have any rain in the next few weeks, water your trees and shrubs to a depth of about 12 inches, once this month.
- You probably don’t need any more incentive after watching the destruction of Wine Country, but you really need to do some fire protection around your home. Prune low-lying branches on shrubs, and clean the eaves to remove leaf buildup. If you have flammable plants close to your home, you might want to get rid of them.
- Shred pine needles, and use them as mulch beneath irrigated, acid-loving plants, or compost them. Trim away dead woody plant parts, and while using oak and redwood leaves beneath those trees as mulch is a good idea, you’ll need to shred them first if you live in a high fire danger zone.
- Plant spring bulbs — daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths — this month and next. Chill tulips before planting.
- This is the week to plant garlic and shallots for harvest next summer.
- Remember, Cleary Bros is your commercial landscaper serving the Bay Area
- If you aren’t growing winter crops this year, considering planting a cover crop to protect your beds and improve their fertility. Plant legumes or grains, or a combination of both.
Santa Clara County’s groundwater — which provides nearly half the drinking water every year for 2 million Silicon Valley residents — fell by up to 60 feet during the state’s recent historic drought due to heavy pumping.
But now the vast underground basins have filled back up to the levels where they were before the drought started in 2011, a welcome trend that experts say was driven by heavy winter rains and strict water conservation rules during the drought that eased the need for pumping.
Monitoring wells run by the Santa Clara Valley Water District first picked up the recovery. And now a new scientific paper published Monday further verifies it.
“People did an amazing job at conserving water during the drought. The entire aquifer recovered,” said Estelle Chaussard, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Buffalo who led the study.
Chaussard analyzed data from four Italian satellites, which measured tiny changes in the surface levels of the ground in Santa Clara County during California’s five-year drought. She found that as groundwater levels plummeted during 2013 and 2014, the ground itself fell as the amount of water underneath it was depleted, a phenomenon known as subsidence. From 2011 to the summer of 2014, for example, an area just north of Happy Hollow Zoo near downtown San Jose saw a 2-inch drop in the ground level, as the ground dried out like a sponge sitting in the sun.
Monitoring wells in the same area showed that the groundwater table fell by at least 60 feet during that time. Similar drops occurred in the Campbell and San Martin areas, and drops of 12 to 19 feet happened in the water table under Sunnyvale and South San Jose’s Coyote Valley.
But when Gov. Jerry Brown and the Santa Clara Valley Water District moved from voluntary to mandatory conservation measures, the district limited yard watering, boosted rebates for water-efficient appliances, and hired “water cops” to leave door hangers and send letters to people watering wastefully during the hot part of the day. And significantly less water was pumped from the aquifers, which are sand and clay formations saturated with water.
At the same time, the water district continued to recharge the aquifers with some water it had in local reservoirs by moving it into dozens of percolation ponds spread throughout the county. It also used water imported from other places, such as the Semitropic Water District, where it stores groundwater near Bakersfield, to keep recharging the ground like a homeowner putting money back into the bank every month during an economic downturn.
“We were working on all fronts to reduce pumping,” said Vanessa De La Piedra, groundwater management unit manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “We saw the very positive results of that. Groundwater levels started to recover in 2015 even though we were still in the drought.”
The ground level began to slowly rebound in 2015, Chaussard’s research showed, as more water underground essentially pushed it back into place. In 2015, Santa Clara County residents reduced water use 27 percent overall from 2013 levels.
When El Niño storms finally brought normal rainfall to Northern California in the winter of 2015-16, Santa Clara County’s aquifers continued to recover. And by 2017, when the wettest winter in 20 years caused downpours and floods, they were back to pre-drought levels, the district’s wells showed.
The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, and also includes researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, UC Berkeley and Purdue University.
It helps demonstrate that satellite technology can be a useful tool in enabling communities to track the health of their groundwater basins, said Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine.
But the good news in Santa Clara County isn’t being replicated in other parts of the state, he said. Of particular concern is the San Joaquin Valley, where farmers for years have overpumped groundwater with little or no recharging efforts, increasing pumping costs and causing roads and concrete canals to buckle and crack as the ground sinks.
“Most of the groundwater that is being pumped in the southern San Joaquin and Tulare Lake basins is much, much deeper,” Famiglietti said. “Those aquifers would take decades to centuries of extremely strict management to recover significantly.”
Santa Clara County has a long history of groundwater struggles. The water table fell nearly 200 feet from 1915 to 1960 as farmers and residents of growing suburbs increased their water use. Subsidence caused the ground to fall as much as 13 feet around San Jose. But when the water district began to construct local reservoirs, import water from the Delta and impose what’s commonly known as “the pump tax” to fund groundwater recharge programs, the water table began to slowly recover.
It is currently back up to basically the same level it was 100 years ago, despite the fact that the county’s population has grown by more than tenfold in the past century from 83,000 in 1910 to 2 million today. Even during the lowest point in the recent drought, the county’s water table was still far higher than it had been in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 2014, in what may be the most important lasting legacy from California’s 2011-2016 drought, state lawmakers passed a sweeping new law aimed at better regulating groundwater in California. Most other Western states, including Texas, were decades ahead of California.That law requires local government agencies in places where groundwater is most at risk to draw up plans to recover it — which could include local agencies levying fees and taxes on farmers and other users to pay for groundwater recharge projects, and potentially, for limits to be placed on how much groundwater can be removed in any year.
Critics, including some environmental groups, said that the law takes too long to take effect. As part of a compromise with farmers, it gives areas until 2040 to bring their groundwater pumping back to sustainable levels.
Good habits die hard, it seems, after five years of epic drought – for most Californians, anyway.
The historic dry spell from 2012 to 2016 prompted many state residents to reduce their water consumption, as did strict regulations imposed by state agencies and individual water districts. Whether they wanted to or not, urban Californians reduced their use of the state’s most precious resource by about a quarter.
Now, after mandatory conservation targets were lifted in April following a very wet winter, many Californians continue using less water than they were prior to the drought. In Sacramento, Los Angeles, most of the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County, urban residential water use is down between 20 and 26 percent since 2013, often used by water agencies as the benchmark year for pre-drought water consumption, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.
That said, water conservation is already slacking off a bit – and more in some areas than in others. In the summer of 2015 – the height of the drought – Californians’ savings on water use peaked at about 25 percent of 2013 levels. A report from the State Water Resources Control Board shows statewide savings on urban water use for June 2017 totaled 17 percent. In other words, though we’re still using less water than we were in 2013, our consumption is rebounding.
Heather Cooley, the water program director for nonprofit Pacific Institute, says such a post-drought uptick in water use is to be expected.
“We see this looking back at other droughts, like in the late 1980s and early 90s,” she said. “People cut their water use, and then it rebounds a little, though never to pre-drought levels.”
Andrea Pook, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, says she expects the rebound in post-drought water use to be slight, at most. That is because people are better educated now in water use efficiency than they were just a few years ago, she said in an email. Not only that, many Californians installed more efficient appliances during the drought and replaced water-hogging lawns with drought-tolerant California native plants – actions that should translate into permanent savings.
Sage advice from our friends at Contra Costa Water District.
As we approach summer, it’s clear our water supply is in a good position. The state-declared drought that began in 2014 is officially behind us, but we still should be mindful of efficient use of our water.
You can give your yard the water it needs, but we ask that you do so wisely. It is possible to have beautiful lawns and gardens without wasting water. Please remember the common sense water rules from the drought and make them habits: Adjust sprinklers to avoid runoff, fix breaks and leaks in your sprinkler system and turn off sprinklers during and after rains. Please use our outdoor watering schedule to help you accurately set sprinkler timers to your yard’s needs each month.
California looks a bit unfamiliar to residents these days: following historic rainfall, the state’s landscape has bloomed, bringing life to its formerly brown hills dogged by drought. On April 7, California Governor Jerry Brown officially lifted the state’s emergency water provisions, thus declaring an end to a record-breaking drought.
Brown, who’s been particularly critical of President Donald Trump’s climate policies, declared an end to the water restrictions he imposed in January of 2014. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Governor Brown’s statement read. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
California’s near record precipitation this winter has bolstered snowpack water content levels throughout the Sierra Nevada to 185% of the March 1 average, which bodes well for spring and summer run-off this year.
That was the overarching message disseminated Wednesday by officials at the California Department of Water Resources who released snowpack reading data taken both manually and electronically. The manual snow survey taken by DWR at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada revealed a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 43.4 inches, up from February’s 28 inches and January’s 6 inches. The March 1 average at Phillips is 24.3 inches.
Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted the survey at Phillips today.
“It’s not the record, the record being 56.4 (inches), but still a pretty phenomenal snowpack….,” Gehrke said in a written statement. “January and February came in with some really quite phenomenal More…