With everything that is going on right now, most Californians can be forgiven for not noticing something that — in any other year — would be a huge story and major topic of conversation: A large part of our state has experienced no rain since March. That in itself would not be alarming except for the fact that the same area received about half its normal rainfall last winter.
Of course we’ve all been talking about the fires and smoke that have resulted at least partially from the historically hot and dry weather this year. October is not a super rainy month in our area, but we do normally get at least one wet storm that settles the dust and ends fire season. This year makes the third October in a row that we will not get a single drop of rain. And it’s looking increasingly like a drought might underway.
Last year’s late-arriving rains were not a huge concern, given that wet weather in the spring had filled reservoirs to the brim and brought the water table up (in this area anyway). But this year, farmers looking around at the parched landscape and the pattern of warm weather and dry wind we seem stuck in are starting to worry about next year. 2014-2015 might seem like a hundred years ago, but most of us still remember it very clearly. And 2020 is starting to feel very similar.
If you’re new to TFF, you should know we have one of the most sustainable and reliable water supplies in California. Our primary water source during the summer is Lake Berryessa, and it’s still quite full after the very wet year we had in 2019. If we irrigate during the winter at all, we use groundwater wells, and most of those were either replaced or upgraded during the last drought. Unlike other areas in the Central Valley, our groundwater is well-managed and not (yet) overdrawn. So if we are in fact entering a drought, it does not pose any immediate threat to our continued ability to provide fruit and vegetables to our subscribers.
Most years, we don’t irrigate much after Halloween and most of the winter vegetables we grow prefer natural rainfall to irrigation water. But right now we are irrigating like crazy, and the crops seem to be loving the warm, dry weather. Our harvest crew isn’t complaining much either.
There’s still a good chance the weather will flip completely sometime in early November. But it is 2020, and the last thing we want is a massive storm to dump large amounts of water on recently burned areas. Still, if we haven’t gotten a good soaking in California by Thanksgiving — and if wildfire season is still in full swing — you can expect to hear a lot more talk about drought.