Monday, May 19, 2014

Please Don’t Save Water

The rain that put out last summers fires.  It fell much more heavily in the Douglas Complex area.

          Grants Pass is beautiful this spring.  The new growth on our trees and shrubbery is bright and abundant, thanks to last summer’s forest fires.  While miserable for people and animals, the smoke from those fires was full of CO2 and water vapor, plus ash, which was watered in by the fall rains that came early and put out the fires.  Indeed, the water vapor produced by the burning of all that wood must have contributed to the rainstorm that put them out, probably quite heavily.
          We have just had a warning of the summer heat to come, which will blast all those nice, tender new leaves unless we give our plants the water they need to keep them green. 
We didn’t have much snow in the mountains this winter, so the snowpack that our rivers and irrigators rely on is low.  On the other hand, spring rains have filled the reservoirs.  We are being told that we have to save water to make it last through the summer. 
One has to ask what we are supposed to be saving it for.  If we don’t use it, it will only run to the sea.  If we use it to water our yards and feed the water cycle, we can make rain that will continue to fill our creeks, rivers, and reservoirs, and help make it last all summer by re-circulating it upstream.  We are dependent on rain this summer, so we’d better do our best to make it rain.
We on the West Coast are blessed to take our water from rivers that run west into the prevailing wind.  Any water that evaporates or transpires blows upstream and uphill and can make rain in the top of our watershed.  It can even make rain right on our heads, if we get thunderheads.
Thunderheads we will have, no doubt about it.  But watering our cities and farms makes the difference between wet thunderstorms and dry lightning that makes forest fires.  We make rain when we water enough.  In the two last decades, we haven’t been watering enough.
A computer simulation by University of California researchers showed, last January, that farmers in California make rain in the desert Southwest. This inspired a study of summer rainfall in the Grants Pass 97526 zip code from 1983-2012 that showed that we had larger rainstorms in July and August than in June and September through the first decade, and the reverse in the last two decades.  Over those last two decades, our average monthly summer rainfall, June-September, fell by nearly a tenth of an inch per decade.
In the 80’s, we had reasonable water rates, and nearly everyone watered, mowed, and took care of their yards; this was a very neat town, reminiscent of Goshen, Indiana.  It seemed like we had thunderstorms nearly every week in the summer.  Now we have tiered rates that charge us through the nose for watering our yards, and dry, dusty, sometimes smoky summers.
If Grants Pass based our water charges on what it costs to provide the service, the rate tiers would be reversed, with most of the charge on our basic winter water use.  The vast majority of the cost of clean, delivered water is overhead in plant and employees, which must be covered regardless of use.  Talk to the city about changing its water rate structure, and water like the quality of your life depends on it, regardless of the rates.  It does.