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Grappling with the Drought - Pepperwood Preserve works toward solutions


Grappling with the Drought
Pepperwood Preserve works toward solutions

Dr. Lisa Micheli

Could there possibly be a silver lining to what is now the fourth year of California's record-breaking drought? Perhaps.

It is estimated that by 2020, one-third of our global population will be facing a serious water shortage and by 2040, it will affect all of the globe. Here in Sonoma County, we're using our current water shortage to take significant steps in changing our behavior today.

Our community is becoming increasingly educated about water use and how our watersheds function. Today, many of you have read the thought-provoking reports that it takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond and over 100 gallons are needed to produce an ounce of beef. Brown has become the new green, as homeowners and businesses stop watering lawns and look into drought-tolerant alternatives. Residents of cities including Santa Rosa are now subject to mandatory water regulations. The public is getting more familiar with the network of rivers, reservoirs, and aqueducts that move water across the state, and how precious our water resources really are. We're changing our behavior today to prepare for a drier future.

A drier California will be the new norm

Pepperwood at SunsetPepperwood's TBC3 research team is using computer models to explore how much "droughtier" our future may be as a result of climate change. What the models show is what you intuitively know: warmer weather helps to dry things out. So as temperatures continue to rise, the effect is akin to aiming a blow dryer on high heat at the Earth. The result is increasing the total amount of evaporation, or where plants are growing, evapotranspiration (the combination of direct evaporation plus water used by the plants).  

For the North Bay, all of the models, even the ones with significantly higher than normal rainfall, suggest that on average an additional 3 inches (or so) of rain per year will be vaporized due to higher temperatures than compared to today.  In some places that amounts to an additional 10% of incoming rainfall being lost due to warming.

 So even if we return to pre-drought levels of rainfall, increases in temperature will necessitate continued focus on our water resources. In her latest blog post, Pepperwood's President & CEO Dr. Lisa Micheli suggests that in addition to asking "how bad will it really get?," we should also be asking "what are we willing to give up?".

Where Pepperwood fits in

Dwight Center for Conservation ScienceAt Pepperwood we recognize that now is the time to work toward more resilient watersheds and long-term solutions to drought that balance residential and agricultural water usage with the needs of our local ecosystems. Much of Pepperwood's research is focused on measuring how plant and animal life is responding to extreme weather events like our drought. This work helps land and water managers throughout Northern California better prepare for the future.





Pepperwood Preserve
2130 Pepperwood Preserve Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404(707) 591-9310

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