In California, the rivers are roaring thanks to two major storms in recent weeks. The snowpack is much improved — the best it’s been in years — and more rain is coming to the Golden State.
A chorus of urban water districts is urging the State Water Resources Control Board, California’s chief drought regulator, to let emergency conservation rules expire. Residents are happy, farmers are optimistic and water agencies are seeing some wiggle room, but seem to be leaning toward keeping some regulations in place — at least for a few more months.
Still, some pundits are beginning to whisper that the drought is over — at least for northern California where the eight stations in the northern Sierra used to gauge precipitation in the region have seen the most precipitation on record since the start of the water year Oct. 1, and are at 218 percent of average in mid-January. But it’s harder to say about southern California.
As it relates to our flower farmers specifically, the rain is a very welcome reprieve. Despite the relatively low water consumption by our flower farms, the state of affairs surrounding the drought was having its impacts. Trying to explain how our flower farms utilize hydroponic growing systems that actually collect and recycle water that dramatically limits the water needed takes time. Trying to explain that our farms use drip tape and soil monitoring systems to significantly reduce water can be difficult to communicate to customers and consumers when it looks like Rome is burning. National news coverage highlighting the worst of the worst unfortunately casts a wide shadow, and our flower farmers were not immune from the conversations and controversy that California’s water issues raised.
I’ve spoken to our farms up and down the state that have certainly faced some challenges with the recent storms, but overall they are grateful for the deluge of rain and the changing public discourse about where things stand.
That said, the Golden State will eventually face more dry years and much of the water problems we face in California are self-inflicted. Right now, during the wet years, more could be being done to capture all of this water to help offset the dry years. Unfortunately, the politics around “the how” will continue. Fortunately, our flower farmers know this and have invested in the technology and production practices that limit their exposure to the kind of politics and regulatory consequences that comes when things start to dry up.
In the meantime, reservoirs are filling, aquifers are recharging and California’s flower farmers keep blooming.
Kasey Cronquist is the chief executive officer of the California Cut Flower Commission. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.