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By Tim Hunt

Whacky weather year

Uploaded: Apr 2, 2013

What a whacky weather year for the past five months.
We had near record rainfall in November and December—great for ski resorts and water managers alike. It made for great snow reports in the early season snow surveys.
Now, despite some mini-storms that have come through in the past week, we have had a stunningly dry three months. The weather has been so benign that it has invited lots of golf and running around in shorts in March.
We had had some frosty days along the way—good for stone fruit this spring and summer—but it will be a tough summer for farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who are anticipating just 20 percent of their water allocations. That will mean pumping ground water or fallowing land.
The snow report for April 1, typically the deepest snow pack of the season, showed an average of just 50 percent.
Having tilled the soil in the backyard over the weekend, I can report just how hard some of the ground is thanks to the lack of moisture. Given the warm weather, it seems time to get serious about getting some vegetables into the ground.
Watering them should not be an issue this summer (we are entirely on drip irrigation) thanks to the abundant ground water basin in the Livermore Valley, there likely will be no reason beyond normal prudence to think of being careful with water usage this summer.
Using water wisely is always good practice. For instance, the South Coast regional of the Los Angeles basin, water usage dropped by 450,000 acre feet over 10 years from the mid-90s to 2005, while the population increased by 2 million. Among the locations with the lowest per capita water use is Las Vegas.
Ironically, some of the bigger challenges these days—as people ask what's the value of a green and well-mowed lawn for aesthetics versus a landscaping with native plants or artificial grass that only takes an occasional vacuuming instead of mowing, fertilizing and watering. In some areas, homeowners associations have objected to the removal of a grass lawn because of aesthetics that ignored the other factors.