Effects of Drought felt close to home

Rhiannon Mulligan, Columnist

In recent weeks, Santa Cruz County workers and PG&E employees have been working to prepare for the coming El Nino storm system (Baxter). City authorities and federal scientists are expecting rainfall and flooding of a magnitude that hasn’t been seen since the winter of 1997-1998 (Rogers). While many people in Santa Cruz are treating the coming storm as a panacea, it is very probable that El Nino will not actually end the prolonged drought in the state. Jay Lund of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science says “[i]t is very unlikely that things will develop exactly as we’re hoping.” This call for cautious optimism is echoed by Tim Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, who predicts that “[t]his El Nino will certainly not be enough” to end the four year drought (Dupont). In order to end the drought, we would “needs 150 percent or more of normal rainfall statewide this year to make a major dent in the drought” (Rogers).

To put the drought into perspective, take the example of Lexington Reservoir (“Historical Reservoir Gage Water”). You’ve probably seen it when you drive over the hill to Los Gatos or San Jose. It is currently at 19.7% capacity, down from 20.5% on October 15th. This change is so dramatic that it is noticeable day to day.

While everyone is affected by the drought and the water restriction imposed to combat it, the group that is feeling the drought most acutely might be the Los Gatos Rowing Club. The rapidly decreasing water level unfortunately translates directly to a decrease in water surface. For the fall racing season, a race is typically 5k long; the current reservoir water levels only allow for 1,200 meters of straight racing. If the coxswain – the person who steers the boat – is able to make a hard turn before they run into Lexington Dam, then it is possible to eek out 4,000 meters.

In addition to the decreasing water level, Lexington Reservoir further felt the effects of the drought when it experienced a brush fire that burned a quarter of an acre of grass the afternoon of the 26th of October (Nguyen). While the fire was extinguished within 45 minutes, traffic was at a standstill along Highway 17 for a better part of an hour and Santa Clara Fire had to further deplete Lexington’s the water reserves in order to douse the flames.

While the rain we experience on Monday the 2nd of November gave many people hope that the long drought would finally be ending, the fact is that it is going to take a lot more than some rainstorms to lift California and the Bay Area out of the on-going drought.