A fairly strong El Niño winter has given California and Nevada some relief from the persistent long-term drought, particularly the northern areas of both states. But it has not been enough to completely compensate for the previous four bone-dry years. The two states will still need to see at least a couple more years of good winter rainfall to completely restore the groundwater and move things out of the danger zone.
So state residents will still need to practice drought preparedness for the foreseeable future. Below we’ll look at some of the methods they’ve been using to reduce their water usage and help ease the burden on everyone.
Expanded use of waste water
Californians and Nevadans have had to hold their noses (literally) and find non-traditional uses for treated waste water. One primary use has been in shipping it back to valley farmers to use on their crops. Southern California has gone even farther down this road, however, with the region disproportionately not receiving the benefit of the El Niño rains. In Orange County, for example, so-called “toilet to tap” has been implemented with reverse osmosis techniques filtering wastewater to an extremely high level of purity that is suitable for drinking.
Creative lawn alterations
New restrictions in California mandate that residents cannot water their lawns within 48 hours of a measurable rainfall, and some localities have even tougher restrictions in place. This has made it very tough to keep lawns alive and green in many parts of the state. In response, state residents are are replacing lawn with artificial grass, native plants, and other drought-tolerant landscaping solutions. The state has actually started a rebate program to encourage this behavior. Some simply take the path of least resistance, and paint their brown grass green!
Farmers have been forced to adapt to growing crops that require less water and create greater value with a smaller amount of land. Almonds and alfalfa are two notoriously thirsty crops to grow, and these are being reduced in favor of avocados, pomegranates and dragonfruit among other exotic options.