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Last week, it was declared that California is officially involved in a drought emergency. You may have noticed that we didn’t get any rain throughout the holidays, and still have yet to record any precipitation in the 2014 year. This season has rounded out the driest calendar year that has been recorded in California in 119 years! That’s quite a record! While it is nice to enjoy 80 degree weather in January, it may also be problematic for local ecosystems, and for those of us whose water supply is provided by reservoirs in the drought-affected areas. We must also remember that dry conditions create big potential for wildfires, as we have seen in recent weeks.

In a drought emergency, we are all encouraged to try to conserve water in different ways. It may mean shortening your daily shower by a few minutes, watering your lawn less frequently, or repairing leaky faucets and pipes. It is recommended that each household reduce their water use by 20 percent. Here are some things you can do to help our state recover from this drought:

Think about your personal water use. You can take this test to answer a few questions and get an estimate for how much water you use in a day. I found out that I use almost 90 gallons of water every day! Think about ways in which you can reduce that number. Save Our Water has a lot of great ways you can cut your water use around the house.

Consider making your lawn drought-friendly. Lush green grass looks nice, and feels great underfoot, but maintaining a grass lawn can be a waste of water. Consider choosing shrubs and ground cover that fits in with the soil and climate in your region. Many plants can grow with little water and lots of sunlight, and if chosen properly, you could have a garden that requires less maintenance and less water. Check out this tool for choosing plants that make sense in your area. If you must have a grass lawn, consider installing an efficient watering system, such as drip irrigation or automatic sprinklers.

California buckwheat is a flowering plant that needs much less water than other common flowers.

Purple sage requires no watering after it has been established in your garden.

We have a great article about drought-tolerant gardening, which you can check out here: A California Solution

Eliminate fire risks. Although winter is typically not considered to be fire season in California, officials are warning that conditions for fire danger are extremely present. There are lots of ways you can reduce the risk of starting a fire, such as practicing campfire safety, keeping equipment or machinery away from dry brush, and keeping cigarettes and their ashes safely contained. Learn more about wildfire prevention here http://www.preventwildfireca.org/.

Keep trees around your house trimmed. During a drought, trees do not get as much moisture from the ground as usual. This may cause some species of tree (like pepper trees) to become dry and brittle. Drought weather often brings with it high winds, which can cause brittle trees to lose branches, or even fall completely. Keep your trees trimmed, and your home safe!

Droughts are a natural part of the weather cycle in California, and some plants and animals can thrive with less water. It is important, however that we reduce our water use, and conserve as much as possible so that the ecosystems around us are not damaged by too much consumption of the little water that is left. We would love to hear about ways you are conserving water!

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