Published: January 11, 2016

    Ten Little-Known Facts About the California Drought

    The current drought in California has continued unabated since the first substantial drop in precipitation in 2011. The lack of water is drying up the entire state and its effects are severe and well reported. California has instated water restrictions and reservoirs are drying up as the state fights to give its citizens access to clean drinking water. While several aspects of the drought draw national headlines regularly, here are 10 little-known facts about the situation in California:

    1. Farmers are turning to unconventional methods to save money and water. Singing Frogs Farm has chosen to forgo soil tilling for five years ever since the onset of the drought. Tilling causes nitrogen and carbon to leave the soil and bond with oxygen, creating greenhouse gases. Tilling also decreases the natural moisture of the soil. By forgoing tilling, farmers are cutting back on the amount of water they have to supply to their sprinkler systems each year.
    2. The meat industry is unsustainable during a drought. The vegetation intake of a single cow is overwhelming, and livestock farmers with barren fields must import great amounts of grass and vegetation to feed their livestock at considerable cost. Many farmers are giving up livestock farming altogether to reduce losses.
    3. Small farms are growing in popularity as the result of cost-benefit analyses. Smaller farms specializing in organic produce are more adaptable and resilient in times of drought. Cutting down the transport time keeps the highest amount of nutrients packed into produce. Large farms are high-risk and high-reward, and in a drought, the losses from large farms are devastating.
    4. Wineries can improve flavor by adapting to the drought. Irrigating grapevines causes a topsoil vine system to grow, limiting the amount of flavors and shades a wine can have. By irrigating less and minimizing the water bill, wineries can actually improve the terrier, or flavor, of their wine substantially.
    5. Hydroponic farming may become the future of farming. Aeroponics is a subset of hydroponic farming in which plants are grown sans soil by slightly misting their root systems throughout growth. Smaller local farms can cut their water usage by 95 percent utilizing this method, and it results in more nutrient-rich food.
    6. Fish may be instrumental in farming. Another branch of hydroponic farming is aquaponic farming, which consists of fish and plants growing and living in the same water habitat. As fresh water supplies dwindle and fish populations are threatened, the solution for many ecosystems may be to incorporate the fish themselves into the farming process.
    7. Many patents are being issued for water-free cleaning systems. The drought is pressing corporations and citizens to use as little water as possible. Many innovators have invented devices and systems that eliminate water from household tasks. John Cox, executive chef of Sierra Mar restaurant in Big Sur, cleans the dishes in his kitchen with an air-blower system that is completely water-free.
    8. Droughts are sometimes naturally occurring. All ecosystems and biomes have climate cycles. Drought is known to occur in California frequently, and some recorded droughts in the past have lasted nearly 10 years. However, scientifically speaking this is the worst drought California has faced in 500 years.
    9. El Niño can’t “fix” the drought situation. The water deficit is so great that several seasons of intense waterfall won’t be enough to refill the drained aquifers of California. The magnitude of the drought eclipses the precipitation possibilities of single-event weather occurrences. Incredible rainfall and a concerted national effort are needed to recover from the drought.
    10. You can do your part. Reducing water usage only takes determination. Keep showers to eight minutes. Shower with cold water. Don’t wash your car often, or at all, with conventional means. Don’t buy bottled water. Keep Pelican Water glass table bottles of water out during meals so everyone in the family isn’t leaving half-consumed cups of water out. The drought is a national problem that we can only fix together.