When Gary Kremen delivered his State of Valley Water Address on February 8th, he had Herculean beasts and ecological balance sheets on his mind.
The conundrums of whether or not to spend water on gardening during a drought are many. Growing backyard food is not just enjoyable, it also cuts down on greenhouse gasses from food transport and storage. Maintaining – or expanding – ornamental gardens is therapeutic but also can sustain pollinators and wildlife that are struggling to survive human-made hurdles.
While monarch butterfly numbers at traditional winter roosts on the California coast hit an all-time low of about 2000 last winter, citizen-science observers have noticed that some remain in the San Francisco Bay Area year-round. Biologists Elizabeth Crone (Tufts University) and Cheryl Schulz (Washington State University) estimate a resident population of 12,000 in northern and central California, extrapolating from a Berkeley survey.
What do rock walls across Delta water channels, brown lawns, bans on hoses, and red flag fire warnings have in common? California’s deepening drought. Up in the Delta, the state is once again piling up rocks in False River to prevent salty ocean tides from intruding too far inland, and too close to intakes for the state’s water supply pumps (there’s no enough pushback from snowmelt and river outflow this year to keep things fresh!) Meanwhile, many water districts around the Bay Area have already called on their customers to reduce their water use by 10-25%, with Marin going first in April.