Drought conditions continue to worsen throughout much of California and southern Oregon, weeks after California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. Currently, over two thirds of the State of California is experiencing “extreme” drought, the second-worst category on the drought scale. (For comparison, during the 2007 drought, only 35% of the state experienced extreme conditions.) Almost 10% of the state is experiencing the worst category, “exceptional” drought. This marks the first occurrence of exceptional drought since monitoring began.
“The unusual act of declaring a drought emergency in the middle of February is an indication of how severe the conditions are,” stated Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Several southern Oregon counties share a water basin with drought-stricken California regions.
Wildfires are a major concern in these extreme conditions, as firefighters have already dealt with almost 300 separate wildfires this season. CalFire reminds citizens to maintain a 100-foot defensible perimeter around your home. According to the CalFire website, “Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire.”
A major push for water conservation is also underway. The California Department of Transportation has placed a conservation reminder on its highway signboards. The reminder is the default statement when there are no traffic warnings or amber alerts, in the hopes that heightened awareness will aid conservation and rationing efforts.
Authorities are offering a variety of water-saving recommendations, from in-the-moment tips (such as drastically shortened showers and fewer car washes) to more long-term solutions (such as high-efficiency toilets and mist-less irrigation) that will help both now and in the future.
A high-efficiency toilet is any toilet that uses 1.28 gallons per flush or less. Since flushing can account for over 30% of total household water consumption (the highest percentage of any water source in the home), increasing the efficiency of your toilet can have a massive impact on your water usage.
Similarly, traditional sprinkler systems can be incredibly wasteful. Of the billions of gallons of water used to water landscaping each day in the United States, it’s estimated that half of that water is lost due to wind and evaporation. Large-drip underground tubing systems significantly reduce water usage by delivering water directly to the roots of plants without the water loss incurred by sprinkler systems.
Drought conditions are projected to last into April, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford, CA, but after-effects could linger for decades, possibly longer.