Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We Can Make Rain

A famous comedian said he was told that Las Vegas is at least a dry heat.  He retorted, “So is a match.”
          We don’t have to have such dry, smoky heat in Grants Pass.  An article in Science News shows us the way.  We can make it rain and maybe put out these forest fires around us:   “Farmers in California help make it rain in the American Southwest, a new computer simulation suggests. Water that evaporates from irrigated fields in California’s Central Valley travels to the Four Corners region, where it boosts summer rain and increases runoff to the Colorado River, researchers report online January 12 in Geophysical Research Letters….”
          We in the River City should water like our lives depend on it, because they do, and so do farmers downwind and uphill of us in the Klamath basin.   This study is just a great illustration of the simple hydrologic cycle we learned as children:  Water that falls on the ground from rain or irrigation evaporates or is transpired by plants; builds up into clouds, and falls as rain, part of which evaporates from the wet ground and thirsty plants.  More falls at higher, cooler elevations.
The more plants we grow, the more water we put in the air, because they suck it out of the soil efficiently.  That grass lawns take a lot of water is a good thing; please love and care for yours. Or plant a thirsty ground cover like creeping jenny or blue star creeper that you don’t have to mow.  
We live in a city on a river, from which we take our water.  We are relatively close to the ocean, from which our prevailing winds come, and they blow upriver.  The water that we throw into the air with sprinklers and misters cannot be wasted; we have plenty of it, and throwing it in the air makes more.  It’s so clean that you can grow pitcher plants in it.
It cleans the air where it runs and cools and humidifies the neighborhood.  It blows up river and falls as rain, filling our river and the Klamath.  It makes rain in Medford, a slightly higher elevation.  It can even make wet thunderstorms here, instead of dry lightning.  It can cycle several times in the course of moving east or even in our bowl of a valley, if we just throw enough water.
We used to do just that in the mid-eighties, when the vast majority of us were still watering lawns, and the farms around us were being fully farmed and irrigated.  I remember wet thunderstorms nearly every week when I lived here in the summers of ’85 and ’86, rather than dry lightning and forest fires.
The farmers in the Klamath cannot use the Klamath River water because the Indians have claimed the salmon’s share; they are at the top of the river, not near the end.  We in the Rogue Valley can make rain for them, and for us.  Please water your yards, and spread the word.