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Golis: Facing drought facts

  • Dan Blanton of Ukiah heads to the parking lots across the dry lakebed of Lake Mendocino in November after an unsuccessful afternoon of fishing. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

“Hopefully, it's going to rain. If it doesn't, we're going to have to act in a very strenuous way in every part of the state ...”

— Gov. Jerry Brown

Here in California, we're busy praying for the wettest February in history. Without a deluge (or two or three or four), we're going to be in a world of trouble.

Just ask the 17 rural counties that face severe water shortages within four months.

Just ask the residents of Healdsburg and Cloverdale. Both were listed last week among 17 California cities that might run out of water.

Just ask the residents of the Ukiah Valley, where Lake Mendocino could go dry.

Just ask the dairy ranchers in Two Rock Valley, or the grape growers in the Alexander Valley. Without water for livestock, irrigation and frost protection, they face disastrous losses.

“People don't realize how bad this really is,” Two Rock dairy rancher Don DeBernardi told Staff Writer Robert Digitale.

Without heavy rains, all of us will share in the hardships, economic losses and inconveniences associated with the driest 13 months in the recorded history of the North Coast.

Water shortages affect agriculture and business, recreation and tourism. Water shortages mean shorter showers, front lawns left to die and changes in bathroom etiquette. “Don't flush more often than you need to,” Gov. Jerry Brown said.

We find ourselves on a new and unfamiliar landscape — an arid place where the prospect of a half-inch of rain in January becomes Page One news. (In keeping with the season, the rainfall turned out to be far less than predicted.)

Brown is talking about mandatory rationing and about water transfers from the “more privileged” regions of the state to those that are running out of water.

For now, cities in Sonoma County are scrambling to limit the damage by asking for voluntary reductions in water consumption. If it doesn't rain, these measures won't solve the problem, but they will delay the worst impacts.

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