Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

It’s a Wet La Nina

This chart shows rainfall as of 8 p.m. yesterday at the Costa Mesa measuring station. The dotted red line is the long-term seasonal average, and the blue line represents season-to-date rainfall for the 2010-2011 rain year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.  As you can see, we’re already just three-quarters of an inch behind the average rainfall for an entire year – and it’s only December … and it’s still raining.

It’s obvious that we’re in the midst of a “wet La Nina” year, which leads us to many ponderings.

First, why do reporters insist on thinking La Nina years will be dry and El Nino years will be wet? That’s a trend, for sure, but if there’s one thing any reporter should know, it’s to ask questions and not assume trends will repeat themselves.  A modicum of research would show plenty of precedents for years that went the other way.

Second, we always wonder about the effect of wet years on California’s heated water politics.

Since the water bond was proposed in 2009, we’ve now had two years of relief from drought.  That means very little in the larger picture, especially since we still have reservoirs to refill (including Lake Mead, which recently dropped to its lowest elevation since Hoover Dam was built), but people tend to be more willing to spend money on water supply when the well’s running dry.

Will the wet winter make it harder to pass the bond if it returns to the ballot in 2012?  We realize that the state’s fiscal condition will be more important than rainfall levels in most people’s minds, but wet winters certainly won’t make the campaign any easier.  Still, the messages in support have the advantage of being true:  A wet year is an aberration; we have to plan as if we were going to have dry years. Supporting construction of an new, sustainability-based water infrastructure for the State isn’t just necessary, it’s the environmentally right and economically right thing to do.

Third, as a public affairs firm here in Southern California that has written probably at least ten thousand words promoting water conservation, we worry that this wet December will cause people to get sloppy about their water use.  To them we say, striving for efficiency in your water use is something that should become a lifestyle commitment, something you do without thinking because it’s important for the health and well-being of our society.

Lastly, I have to admit I’ve also been thinking about the bozos who installed our landscaping at our home.  Our undersized and poorly placed drain pipes allow water to seep in around the side door of our garage whenever it rains like this – and last night, as I stood barefoot in the cold water, sweeping it down the sidewalk towards the driveway and the rain gutter, I admit the thoughts I was thinking about those landscapers weren’t exactly alive with the Christmas spirit!

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