Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Drying times in California


How Lake Tahoe should look

For my birthday on Friday, we drove up to Lake Tahoe from our new digs in Cool — it’s just an hour on I-80 — and hiked into the Desolation Wilderness. Though that may sound depressing, especially for a middle-aged birthday boy, the DW is stunningly beautiful. It’s a different-looking, rugged terrain full of pines and raw granite, and the aromas out there are better than any drug I know of. We had to turn back when we came to an impassable creek rushing with cold snowmelt. That was okay with us. We ate lunch in a quiet pine grove and listened to the wind.

The troubling thing is that in early May, Tahoe should have looked more like the photo above than the photo below. There was hardly any snow on the peaks, and we came away with the sense that these are fraught times. A Timothy Egan op-ed in the Times today gets into the nitty gritty of it. Not good news.


How Lake Tahoe does look

Just the other day I learned too that our new neighborhood is served by a one-source water district, and that source is at 60% of capacity. Normally it would be overflowing now and sending the ice-cold water downstream. Instead it’s shrinking, both by unchecked usage and by evaporation. There’s no snow pack to fill it back up.

Once in a while we get these doomy wake-up calls. We have to slap ourselves and understand that this isn’t a drill. It’s real. California could run out of water. I can’t even imagine the consequences, and yet there are an awful lot of green lawns still around, a lot of gleaming cars, and a lot of perfectly groomed golf courses.

Our trip to Tahoe drove home that these really are “drying times.” And that us humans have a hard time facing facts. I’m not sure Egan’s ingenuity solution is going to cut it — at least not in time to avoid a California-sized disaster.

Apocalypse. Now?!


13 comments on “Drying times in California

  1. kingmidget
    May 3, 2015

    Yep. In January 2014, for various reasons, I drove through a large swath of California. Over the mountains to Mammoth. From there down the eastern Sierra to Long Beach. Then to San Luis Obispo. And finally home. At a time when the mountains should have been covered in snow, there was barely a spot of the white stuff even at the highest elevations. The mountain passes that are normally closed for the winter were wide open. The ski runs at Mammoth were entirely made of the man-made stuff. And all of the other areas of the state that would have normally been wet and muddy and mucky were all entirely dry and brown. Fast forward another year and it’s no better. Last Thanksgiving we went up to Tahoe for a couple of days. There was no snow. Nothing at all. And there wasn’t much after that to make things better. That’s the scary thing … the utter lack of a snowpack to feed the rivers, streams and reservoirs.

    I’m also frustrated by all of the green lawns in our neighborhood. We’re letting our front lawn die this year, while watering our back lawn barely enough to keep it alive. And I look around and there are far too many people ignoring reality. If one of them ever says anything to me about my brown patch of grass out front, I’m going to tell them that I’d be embarrassed to have a green lawn.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 4, 2015

      It’s astonishing that people aren’t seeing reality yet. We let our lawn die last year, and the water savings was incredible. Something like 80% of our usage had been to keep the goddamn lawn green!

      • kingmidget
        May 4, 2015

        Yep. Our lawns account for more than 50% of our water usage. Having two teenage boys accounts for the other 50.

  2. John W. Howell
    May 3, 2015

    Usage is the main culprit. It is the same here. We are in Stage Two conservation (once a week watering landscape) and I look out and see water running down the street from auto sprinklers on days where no watering should take place. GRRRRRRR

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 4, 2015

      I think some people have a philosophy that if they can afford it, they get to do it. Same with gasoline. They can afford a $200 fill-up of the Hummer, so it’s all good.

      I think a lot of Californians are about to get radical though. Water’s the new gold!

      • John W. Howell
        May 4, 2015

        When I was there people were so living in denial.

  3. 1WriteWay
    May 3, 2015

    What gets me is that this is old news … California has been struggling with water shortages for decades but things have to get this bad before any action is taken … and then it has to be government action, because, you know, green lawns and all. Sad, sad, sad.

  4. sknicholls
    May 3, 2015

    Not in California, but I water flowers in my back yard thirty minutes twice weekly. I’ve never watered the front lawn or used fertilizer. It’s just the grass that naturally grows. I have a few neighbors (with thick green carpets) that keep referring me to their landscapers/lawn maintenance people and my yard man keeps telling me he does irrigation…hoping I’ll take a hint. I keep telling them we’re fine.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 4, 2015

      It’s too bad there’s no practical way to ship Florida water to California! You might have more of it than you can handle before too long…

      • sknicholls
        May 4, 2015

        There talking about Miami being under water in fifty years and Orlando could become beach front property. Maybe my grandkids will be dealing with that, but I would be nearly 105, so I would probably care less. Miamians were upset that Tallahassee wasn’t paying any attention to their concerns about rising sea levels, so they pitched a vote to split the state into North Florida and South Florida. Somehow Orange County (Orlando) ended up north and Osceola County (Disney World) ended up south. I guess it COULD happen, but people already called my daughter up when she worked for a downtown hotel asking for an oceanview room. HA!

      • Kevin Brennan
        May 4, 2015

        Yep. Now’s the time to buy inland property with an eye toward the future… 🌊

  5. Phillip McCollum
    May 5, 2015

    Happy belated birthday, Kevin! I hope you celebrated with a little rain dance.

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