It's been one bizarre winter…awash in sunshine, and the driest start to a year since LBJ was president. For some, this weather is heaven. But to those who depend on what comes out of the ground, there's a dark side. Ed Foster at the Nevada Department of Agriculture told us, "The dark side of having a low-precipitated winter here in Nevada is that we're only as good as our watershed."
For growers, Foster says this winter is quickly becoming a lost cause, especially since last winter was below average. He hasn't seen farmers hurt this badly, "not in the last 15 years. And if we had these two back to back, it's going to be a very different season for us this year."
It's already a very scary scenario for northern California, where farmers may not get enough water for their crops this summer. Right now, growers are cutting back on planting fields because of that projected lack of water for summer. For us, because the Central Valley of California is our breadbasket, it means higher produce prices. At the Rail City Garden Center in Sparks, green expert Paul Hollis says, "For us here, the farmers in Fallon…they're going to have a crop problem, and California's the same way."
Hollis says it's a topsy-turvy winter for backyard gardeners and landscapers too. He told us, "Plants want to grow right now. The sunlight, the warm temperatures...they need some water." The way things are now, he says you should even water your trees. "Go out and dig a hole, and if you're dry down there 4 or 5 inches, you need to get water on those trees, especially your evergreens."
Your sprinklers can also be turned on now, if you cover them. Hollis showed us the "polar blankets" that fit over the above-ground sprinkler pipes, and showed us how, "If you want to be safe, you can put this over the top and your system will work." But at the same time, he said water conservation should now be on everyone's mind.
If this isn't a make-good month, the BLM may have to deny grazing permits, which could also send food prices higher. But the wet season isn't over and we could still get our fair share...we have in the past with "Miracle Marches." One can only hope history will repeat itself.