Silver Linings

By Jim McCloskey

We’ve had lots of rain and snow in California in recent weeks.  So much precipitation, in fact, that nearly half the state is now officially out of the drought emergency that has bedeviled the state for the past six years.  If current weather patterns persist through the spring, chances are good that the entire region will be breathing easier for a while.

This is fantastic news for watershapers of every description who do business in the Golden State.  It’s also great for suppliers and consultants across the nation who work with the California market on any level.

Just think about it:

[  ]  For years, we’ve listened to threats, veiled or otherwise, aimed at restricting or outright banning the use of water for certain purposes, and the first of the targets typically mentioned by legislators and municipal authorities has inevitably been the backyard swimming pool.  This is despite the fact that, once full, a pool is a minimal consumer of water.

[  ]  For years, we’ve read about public fountains being turned off so towns and cities can show how seriously they’ve been taking local water shortages.  Some of these watershapes were turned off so early and have been inoperative for such extended periods that they’ve suffered internal damage and will require costly repairs to get up and running again.

[  ]  For years, we’ve heard about ponds and lakes shrinking to mere puddles and about the nasty effect the decline of these waterfeatures has had on local animal life, migrating birds, monarch butterflies – so much so that many species have been invading urban environments (including my own backyard) in the hazardous pursuit of the water they need.

It’s been grim, and when the promised El Niño wet-weather pattern didn’t materialize last year, I was among those who were expecting the worst by way of bans and other draconian restrictions moving forward.  For now, however, it seems the axes are at rest.

It’s no satisfaction to Californians that drought afflicts other parts of the country.  But those places don’t have the sort of history with drought that we have here, so it can be creepily amusing to read about the knee-jerking that takes place as they learn what we know about what it takes to cope with these hugely dynamic challenges.

Let me be among the first to say that those lessons, wherever they’ve been learned, have their value.  Watershapers should know well by now that using water with less-than-effective conservation intentions is counterproductive.  So please, let’s not lose ground here by setting aside rainwater capture, runoff management, recycling opportunities and other sound conservation principles as we move into a time when there won’t be as much pressure applied to these issues as has been the case in California for more than six years.

Please let us keep thinking about water consumption the same way we’ve long thought about energy consumption – a field of ongoing discussion and technological development that is here to stay.  Even if water becomes plentiful, in other words, the good design principles we’ve learned to apply will still be good basic practice.

Finally, let us please be grateful that the weather pattern so far in 2017 has favored California’s Sierras – and, beyond them, the Rockies of Colorado – with bountiful snowfall.  It’s sweet relief for a huge swath of the West and may lead to a broader recovery of our region’s housing and general construction markets that will certainly further the interests of the watershaping industry coast to coast.

It’s a good time to latch onto positives wherever we spot them and then act both sensibly and responsibly.  I’m holding on tight here, and I’m hoping you will, too.


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