As the growing multiyear drought in California continues to make headlines, we were happy to invite two water experts to speak at our March Happy Hour. Tom Francis, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency’s (BAWSCA) Water Resource Manager gave an update on the status of the drought in San Mateo County, while Kan Parthiban, Sustainability Director of LYNGSO Garden Materials, Inc. spoke about how healthy soil can support water conservation.
Francis warned that San Mateo County will have to make wise choices to conserve water in the near future. The county and surrounding region currently fall within the “D2: Severe Drought” category, the third ranking on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) five-category Drought Severity Classification Scale. BAWSCA anticipates the drought to increase in severity in the short-term, and climate change will likely only exacerbate drought conditions over the medium- to long-term. Francis highlighted how water consumers had succeeded in reducing water use in response to past severe drought years, including 2013. The BAWSCA website provides resources for residents to find rebates for water conserving activities, as well as water saving tips. Francis emphasized that reducing outdoor watering is the most significant way to reduce water consumption.
After Francis established the context of water use in San Mateo County, Parthiban gave Happy Hour goers insight into how understanding soil science can reduce water use and create beautiful landscaping. Healthy soil acts as a sponge, with a quarter of its mass consisting of water. Spongy soil also contains air and resident organisms who make land more hospitable to plants. Lawns remain entrenched in the United States but require excessive water without stewarding soil health. Parthiban encouraged attendees to improve the health of their soil by adding native plants, compost, mulch and leaf litter to their gardens. Additionally, Parthiban explained how local cities can use bioswales to improve urban soil health and reduce water pollution by runoff. Bioswales consist of unpaved areas designed to capture, filter and store stormwater with the help of resident plant life.
Both speakers provided meaningful insight into the drought situation in San Mateo County. Although drought conditions are expected to continue, individuals can take action by reducing their own water use now and by spreading the word about the drought.
By Roscoe Escobar
See the Power Point here (pdf 11MB)