Today I watch raindrops fall. In my slice of the world raindrops have been few and infrequent. We Southern Californians pride ourselves with our endless string of sunny days, but we need rain. According to the Southern California Weather Notes, our rainfall is 51% of normal.
Rain and snow naturally moves fresh water from the oceans to land and back in the elegant cycle of clouds, rivers, and underground aquifers. This hydrological cycle is our planet’s most important recycling system.
Rain makes my children giddy with excitement. The rain coats and boots are found smashed at the back of the closet, where things not used much live. Suited up they giggle with pleasure with the drip drop of a Spring rain.
My young beans, tomatoes and kitchen garden will not need watering from the garden hose. Today my plants are rain fed. My rain barrel will capture water to be used over the next few weeks to water newly sown vegetable seeds.
Ninety percent of the world’s food is grown exclusively with natural rain. The problem is farms that irrigate consume seventy percent of our planet’s finite supply of fresh-water resources. Irrigated farms grow double the food of rain-fed farms, but use three times the water.
On my drive to my children’s school, I pass thousands of acres of farm land. These fields are irrigated with ground water. The ground water levels in my coastal town drops by 300,000 acre-feet or 98 billion gallons each year; enough water to fill nearly one hundred fifty thousand Olympic size pools. This occurs because water is spent quicker than rainfall and seepage naturally replace it. Water managers call this a water deficit.
There are farmers and backyard gardeners who stretch the rain beyond a scant rainfall with rain catchment systems, or by building the quality of soil, so it holds raindrops in the ground during the dry months. These farms will remain on rainy day schedule, using little to no blue water draws to sustain their crops for weeks or months after the rain clouds have passed.
Tomorrow the sun is expected to shine again. Some of the water from this Spring storm will seep underground, some water will join local rivers and merge into the sea, and some will evaporate. Rain coats will return to closets; umbrellas will be squeezed shut, the sprinklers turned back on.