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The d-word returns; are you ready? | Editorial – Chico Enterprise-Record


Remember all those water conservation measures you learned back during the drought? Might be time to refresh your memory.

This week brought a number of reminders that we’re sliding back toward dryness. Most graphic were a pair of satellite images showing the snowpack in the mountains last year (robust!) and this year (where’s the snow?). That’s a problem because that snow represents about a third of the state’s water supply.

The Department of Water Resources website indicates the snowpack is 57 percent of normal for this date in its Northern Sierra/Trinity region, which is what fills Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake.

Conditions are even worse in the Central and Southern Sierra, putting the state average at 52 percent of normal.

It’s not just snow, as you might have noticed. The weather has been beautiful, spring-like in February, without a hint of rain.

That’s good news for people who like to work in their garden or enjoy the outdoors. Good news for the almond crop as it’s perfect weather to get the blooms pollinated. Good news even for those who just want to work on their tans.

But it’s bad news for the future, as rain isn’t filling our reservoirs and replenishing our aquifers.

Locally we’re about 10 inches short of the amount of rain we usually get. In Chico, we’ve seen 7.43 inches since the rainfall year began Oct. 1. Normal to this date would be 17.40 inches.

The National Drought Monitor puts just over half the state in its “abnormally dry” classification, with 9.5 percent considered in “moderate drought.”

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So the d-word is back in our vocabulary. Question is, is it back in your consciousness?

Per capital water use is still down slightly from pre-drought levels, largely because actions people took then — like changing their landscape — are still in place. But you don’t hear people talking about the conservation measures that were the one of the most common topics of conversation back in the dry times.

So we wonder if we’ve forgotten how to save water. Most of us aren’t much for making sacrifices unless they are demanded of us, and we’re not there yet.

That’s because of the one bit of good water news: Most of the state’s reservoirs have more water stored than is usual for this time of year. Lake Oroville’s 93 percent of average. Shasta Lake is 109 percent of average and Trinity Lake, 114 percent.

So the state isn’t coming after us yet. And maybe we’ll get a March miracle, with foul weather that will make us long for February. Maybe publishing this editorial will put the hex on the blue skies, and storms will start today. We do what we can.

But maybe it’s time to start dusting off the habits that got us through the drought. Water conservation should be an everyday thing, drought or not. Do it before you have to.



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