The Long Hot Dry Summer of 2014

I regularly go hiking, and it was already clear at the beginning of the year that we were in for a long drought. We had only a few sprinklings of rain during a season which typically includes several storms, and it rarely if ever rains during the summer.

By the time June rolled around, the trails were dustier than ever. The non-native grass was yellow and tinder-dry. The creek behind my house faded in to a few puddles, and is now down to its bare cement bed gathering dust and a few hardy weeds.

And summer traditions had to be cancelled. Memorial Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains closed down: the dryness made the ecosystem too fragile to withstand the stress of campers and campfires. The annual waterfest at the nearby Lutheran Chruch was cancelled due to impending water restrictions, as well as respect for the limitations. My son’s boy scout troop revised its plans to go rafting down the Russian River, which is lower than ever.

It’s hot and dry. It’s not hotter than its been in our hottest years, but the dryness adds a level of parching which just makes you feel the need for yet another glass of water to follow the one you just drank. I learned the word estuation, which is a reverse sort of hibernation which many California species do in such weather — when there isn’t adequate water, they just go to sleep/dormant until there is.

Yet water restrictions are spotty, and irregular. Our lawn is near death due to not getting watered, but climbing up into the hills around the valley, you can still see the lush golf courses with natural groomed non-native grass glistening below. We gleefully splash into our swimming pool. Back during California’s last epic drought, my fellow Californians remember each household being given a quota of water per day, which once exceeded meant you had no water at all until the next day or week. (And since it was based on previous consumption, these Californians have no incentive to cut back in advance now, since cutting back now means having less later.)

Next year will be different. California weather goes in cycles, so next year, it will probably rain so much people will be complaining about floods and overflowing reservoirs, and we’ll have a different sort of disaster on our hands.

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