Happy Dancing Turtle Blog
We will bring you stories and articles that will educate, entertain, and inspire.
On April 1, 2015, California Governor, Jerry Brown, issued a statewide mandatory 25% reduction in water usage for cities and towns. This would include water used for home use (watering lawns, showers), businesses (golf courses, cemeteries, etc.) and certain agricultural productions (irrigation using local water sources). The goal is to save at least 1.5 million acre feet of water.
In the land 10,000 lakes we (at least, I do) take for granted how fortunate we are to be surrounded by water. My sister lives in Berkeley, CA and has been keeping me updated on this current drought. She tells me of people hosing down their driveways and watering their lawns as if there is no water scarcity.
Looking at the problem of water scarcity in CA it looks like we can attribute it to a simple two factors; lack of rainfall (or snowfall) to replenish the aquifers and overuse on the consumer-side. While I can not attribute for all cases in all instances, there can be two options to help minimize the effects of this drought: capture what little water falls and use less of the water that is captured.
There are hundreds of sites that will give you good help if you want to use less water in the bathroom, in your garden, or in your home in general. I recommend you take a look to see if you can implement them into your home. Here's a couple highlights.
Using low-flow toilets and faucets with aerators (which are extremely cheap!) are a good simple way to start. Standing in the shower for as little as five minutes less can add up to hundreds of gallons saved. Imagine if you added a low-flow shower head! Even less water used.
Now, without getting into the reasons behind the drought (what a divisive issue climate change is, right?) and the fact that building in deserts is probably a bad idea for a water-deprived state, let's look at an idea that might best capture what little rain does fall in the state.
According to the CA Dept. of Food and Agriculture, California produces nearly half (HALF!) of all US-grown fruits, nuts, and veggies. CA produces 90% of all tomatoes, 95% of all broccoli, and an astounding 99% of all almonds purchased in the US. In other words, CA is an agricultural juggernaut. And it is, in part, due to the water needs of the farmers (which is high, as seen) that it is difficult to use less water.
So, how about retaining the water that DOES fall on agricultural sites? One idea is to increase the soil organic matter in agricultural fields. This would require less irrigation (and then less water loss due to evaporation). Jim C. covered this in his latest blog post. Here's a snippet (bolding is mine):
Healthy soil has huge potential to heal our planet and our bodies. Increasing the health of our soil requires increasing soil carbon. Increased soil carbon leads to not only more balanced soil nutrients but increased water holding capacity. Genetic engineering promises to create drought resistant crops by modifying their genetic structure so the plant needs less water. While this may address a symptom, it fails to solve the problem. Through diverse crop rotations, the use of cover crops and compost, and integration of properly managed livestock, farmers are increasing soil carbon at amazing rates. Producers achieving a 2-4% increase in organic matter in less than a decade have been reported across the country and around the world. A one percent increase in soil organic matter equates to approximately 25,000 gallons of additional water holding capacity per acre, leading to resilience to drought and, over large acreages, the ability to mitigate flood severity. Infiltration rates in excess of eight inches per hour have been recorded.
To explore this idea further, lets do the math on how this would play out in California:
Governor Brown's goal is to reduce the usage 1.5 Million acre ft of water.
1 acre foot of water equals = 339,768 gallons
1% of soil organic matter (SOM) can hold on to 25,000 gallons apprx.
So divide those 25,000 gallons into the 339,768 and to get 13.59 acres to hold one acre foot of water per 1% increase in SOM.
So, if you want 1.5 million acre ft of water, (1.5 million X 13.9) you'd need 20,300,000 acres (20.3 million) with a 1% increase in SOM.
With 43 million acres with an agricultural designation in California, (and around 27 million acres dedicated to crop use) that's under half of all agricultural acreage that would need offset the Governors' goal. In fact, you can pare that down even further when you consider other uses of land (ie lawns, golf courses, etc) that could add more organic material.
It seems doable on the surface and without adding aquifers or desalinization plants can be done inexpensively. In fact increased soil organic matter reduces the need for fertilizers and other inputs leading to possibly more profitable farming. In fact the Organic Trade Association claims organic farms are, on average, 35% more profitable. And we haven't even mentioned the benefits of carbon sequestration, flood mitigation or pollinator habitat that come from diverse farming systems.
Again, this is just a concept. But, with another harsh summer being predicted for California, something should be done to mitigate the water loss. With this two-prong idea, maybe something can be done.
What are your thoughts on the drought? What solution ideas do you have? I'd be eager to hear. Just tell us below.
Well, folks, it's here. We are about to enter into the busiest phenological time of the year! Unfortunately, I am going to miss a huge portion of it! Okay, to be honest, it's not that unfortunate; I'll be in Peru! Before I depart, here is an update on what I've been seeing and what you should be looking for in weeks to come!
Migration has, quite literally, taken off. Many of the birds that I have recently been seeing in our area actually overwinter in other parts of the state, particularly in more southern regions. Since they had the closest wintering grounds, it makes sense that we seen them first! Even though many bald eagles now winter around here, there has been a very noticeable increase in their numbers - particularly in juveniles. I saw seven bald eagles on my drive home in just one afternoon. Most of them can be found foraging winter's leftovers on the ice or the side of the road.
Two juvenile eagles scavenging breakfast on the ice near Pine River, 3/30/15.
Bald eagle scavenging road kill on 3/30/15. It let me get quite close before taking off!
It continued eating its "snack" out on the ice (3/30/15).
During the last two weeks, I have seen a tremendous increase in trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and American crows. I have also noticed more dark-eyed juncos, purple finches, American tree sparrows, American robins, and common goldeneyes - all of which may winter in other parts of Minnesota, but have been absent from my area for a while. The first hooded mergansers, common mergansers, and wood ducks have returned from the south, the grouse are starting to drum, and I've already had my first tick - so be on the lookout! I have yet to see my first spring wildflower, but with temperatures on the rise and moisture in the forecast, it won't be long now! Tonight, I even spotted my first red-winged black bird singing its song from the wetland near my house!
"We're back!" - My first sighting of Canada geese on 3/12/15. Migrating trumpeter swans take a nap 3/26/15.
Common Goldeneyes (left, 3/19/15) & Hooded Mergansers (right, 3/31/15) returned about two weeks ago.
Wood ducks, common mergansers (left, 3/31/15) & red-winged black birds (right, 3/31/15) are more recent.
So while I am gone for the next couple weeks, I need everyone to be my eyes and ears - observe our wonderful spring phenology! Here is what you should be watching for:
Early April: Arriving back - great blue herons, American white pelicans, turkey cultures, harriers, and eastern phoebes. Come early butterflies (species that overwintered as adults, like some of the Commas & Tortoiseshells) have already been reported!
Mid April: Many ducks will be returning to the wetlands (blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, pie-billed grebes, etc.). Look for sparrows (song, fox, & white-throated), yellow-rumped warblers, and northern flickers. You might see a garter snake trying to warm up in the sun! Be listening for chorus frogs, wood frogs, & spring peppers. Coyote and red fox pups are born, but they'll spend some time in dens, meaning we won't see them for a while still.
Late April: Loon "scouts" may be back, even with ice on the lake. Ospreys will return if there is enough open water. Frogs will begin to lay eggs if the weather is warm. Chipmunks are back out and active, especially under the feeders! We may even see a dragonfly! Green darners migrate, so the adults will return to lay eggs before they die.
Our mild winter will likely have some animals/plans ahead of their typical schedule, so be vigilant! Get outside and feel the sun of your face. Take a 15 minute stroll through your yard each day to notice the changes going on near you. As always, enjoy!