Sunday, April 20, 2014

Record-low rainfall leaves farms, ranches parched

California Water-Drought

Water levels in Folsom Lake were dangerously low in 2008. December 2013 has been one of the driest months ever recorded in California, leading some cities and counties to issue mandatory water rationing orders. While no official drought declaration has been called, forecasts calling for a third straight drier-than-average year have led to state and local level preparations. AP file photo

From page A1 | January 02, 2014 | Leave Comment

Dec. 31 marked the end of the driest year ever for Davis, but only the start of trouble for its neighbor farmers and ranchers.

Davis accumulated just 5.23 inches of rain last year — compared to 19.6 inches in a normal year. It’s the lowest amount since totals were first recorded in 1893, breaking a record of 5.64 inches in 1976.

In that respect, Yolo County is “in the same boat as everyone else in Northern California right now,” with a stubborn high pressure ridge parked over the region that’s keeping storms at bay, National Weather Service forecaster George Cline said Tuesday. Rain may be a week or so off.

“The models are being a little inconsistent, but something may be coming in,” Cline said.

The 30-day outlook shows below-normal rainfall, he said, but the 90-day trend is closer to normal: “That’s a good sign because that’s the wettest part of our year.”

Right now, it looks awfully bleak to Rachael Freeman Long, Yolo County director for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Take wheat, for example. It’s the county’s 10th most important commodity, worth more than $20 million annually. Winter rainfall is needed to bring up the crop, but there’s been next to none.

“There’s a lot of fields out there where nothing has germinated. There’s a feeling of despair,” Long said.

Or oat hay, grown as cattle feed: “I’ve seen whole sections of land planted to oats and not a blade was coming up. It’s just a disaster,” she said.

There’s little feed for cattle and sheep in the hills, either.

“It’s very sad how brown the hills are. It should be solid green this time of year,” Long said. “It gets depressing.”

Clear Lake and the Indian Valley Reservoir, which provide surface water for county farms, have little or nothing to give.

While the county is blessed to sit atop aquifers that provide a stable amount of ground water, the cost of pumping it — as tree-crop growers are busy doing — will eat away at profits.

Growers will plant crops that require less water, choosing another crop instead of rice, for instance, but not all will have that option. In some instances, “if they depend on surface water, they just won’t be planting a crop,” Long said.

Disaster aid from Washington remains in doubt, with Congress unable to reach agreement on a comprehensive Farm Bill.

It’s been similarly dry up and down the state. Downtown Los Angeles received a meager 3.60 inches of rain in 2012, the driest calendar year since 1877. Normally, downtown would be soaked with about 15 inches of precipitation.

Similarly, San Francisco recorded just 5.59 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, 18 inches below normal. Sacramento is 14 inches below average after receiving 6.13 inches of rain this year.

The lack of rainfall does not bode well for the winter’s first snow survey that will be released on Friday. Real-time readings of the water content in the snowpack — which supplies much of California’s water — reveal it’s only 20 percent of normal.

Many of the state’s major reservoirs are below average for the month. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is currently at 37 percent of its total capacity. Folsom Lake recently dipped below 20 percent of its capacity, marking a historic low for December.

This triggered some communities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region to issue water conservation orders.

Folsom recently mandated that residents cut water consumption by 20 percent. Sacramento County asked unincorporated areas to voluntarily reduce water use by the same amount.

State water managers are also discussing transferring water from places with relative abundance to communities facing critical shortages.

Even before the state was gripped by record dryness, several cities, including Santa Monica and Long Beach in Southern California, had planned to reduce their dependence on imported water in the coming years by maximizing groundwater supplies, harvesting stormwater and increasing recycled water distribution.

Back in Davis, Wes Leith, superintendent for Wildhorse Golf Course, remained optimistic about the rain.

“I think it’s coming. I think we’re going to be fine. At this point, we’re not pulling our hair out,” he said. “We operate off a well out here, so we’re drawing out of the aquifer. It’s not too burdensome for us. Like everyone else, we want rain, and we want to replace the water in the aquifer.”

Leith said the cold nighttime temperatures have helped keep moisture in the soil. “Every couple of days we’ll give the sprinklers one turn,” he said, but nothing more.

“The upside is, a lot of people are playing golf.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy



Hub of activity: DHS newspaper keeps evolving

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A1 | Gallery

A springtime ritual

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Tour Davis Waldorf School on Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

The fifth annual Tour de Cluck is soon to be hatched

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Ortiz lawn signs available

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sign up soon for spring cooking classes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Robb Davis team to rally on Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Tour renovated YCCC facility Thursday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Steadfast in their support

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4, 11 Comments | Gallery

Yolo Hospice offers free grief workshops

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sign up for Camp Kesem caterpillar crawl

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Quilters gear up for annual show

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A4

League hosts a series of candidate forums

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

KDVS launches fund drive on Monday

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

Calling all Scrabble fans

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

Hub webpage is seeing traffic increasing

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

Learn Chinese crafts at I-House

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A16

Preschool open house set at Davis Waldorf

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Birch Lane celebrates its 50th anniversary

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Lescroart welcomes all to book-launch party

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16 | Gallery

DEVO set to serve up 14th annual Winkler Dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16, 1 Comment | Gallery



Take ownership of your health

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

Not thrilled with lack of symmetry

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Reliving the agony and ecstasy of spring

By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

Keep your baby safe

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Vote no; it’s fiscally responsible

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 3 Comments

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

Core values on campus

By Our View | From Page: A12, 3 Comments

Road diet? No, city diet!

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 5 Comments

We’re reveling in our equality

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Bill is an affront to UC Davis ag biotech and local farmers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 3 Comments

Don’t want to sit in Fix 50 traffic? Consider alternatives

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment



Stars shine in Woody Wilson Classic

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Devils burn up the track

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

UCD softball shut out by Santa Barbara

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggie men shoot 9-under, lead own tourney

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD roundup: Aggie baseball swept away by Highlanders

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

A’s score 3 in ninth, rally past Astros 4-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6







Will Davis get an Old Soul?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9

Pediatricians, nurse practitioner hired at Woodland Healthcare

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Asian stocks mostly higher after mixed U.S. earnings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

PG&E pays taxes, fees to county, cities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

Davis Roots will showcase its graduating startups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14

University Honda wins another President’s Award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

Dutch Bros. raises $19,000 for girl with leukemia

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery





Comics: Sunday, April 20, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8