After a stressful few weeks, we decided to treat ourselves to a really fun day trip. At the suggestion of Manny Matus, my partner at the gym, we headed east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Manny assured us that it was a really short drive to get into the hills, so we headed out after a lazy Sunday morning breakfast, with a cooler full of water bottles and healthy snacks.
I should have realized that Manny’s estimate of one hour and forty minutes must have been from his home on the eastern edge of San Jose, which is already at the edge of the higher elevations. By the time we had driven for two hours, we were no where near the mountains! The tedious part of central Silicon valley seemed to go on forever, but finally at the three hour point, we entered the gentle rolling hills that welcomed us to the range.
At this point, the lanky grasses and shrubs so familiar to us became a bright yellow crew cut sparsely interspersed with gnarly arthritic looking trees. This accompanied us all the way to the San Luis reservoir, a savings bank of water for the surrounding farm land.
All through the gentle beginner hills there were dozens of beautiful homes, many of which were for sale. This became increasingly common the further we travelled. As the countryside became more desolate, the reason for this real estate ghost town became clear. Since the infrastructure was not already present to counteract such disasters, individual farmers had to have water hauled in to supply crops and livestock. This was doable for the short term, but not as time went on. The four year drought had driven farmers to despair, and eventual bankruptcy.
Even with the cruelty of the drought, the area has managed to retain a stark beauty. If we might assume that Yosemite has been spared this sort of devastation, it would be a stringent statement about the losses exacted by Mother Nature on her own lands. Since we were unable to go as far as that park, I have no idea how much the California drought has affected the park. It is several hundred miles further inland so its precipitation patterns could be completely different from those here!
This is the best picture we could get of the impact that the drought, by trying to show its effect on this reservoir. You can see a black band above the water level, that basically runs across the center of the picture. That seemingly indistinguishable line is actually twelve feet thick, and represents the pre and post drought water level in this massive pond. The reservoir is “2 million acre feet” in size, which means 500 trillion gallons. In order to calculate the reduction in its size due to the drought, you just need to multiply…..