This is a response to the article titled “Is Napa County capturing enough storm runoff for the next drought?” originally published online on Feb. 18, 2023.
I appreciate the fact that you quoted Rich Marovich in the middle of the article who said “It’s not wasted water. It’s environmental flows, really. Nature needs that.” That was well said and true. I had a few other thoughts on water storage issues during drought.
One, there is no amount of storage that would allow for ample water in drought years. We can’t capture enough water in one wet season like this to last more than a year with the hot dry summers we are having. Our late summer and fall storage is related to snowpack. And snowpack is now at higher elevations in dry and wet years, which is a huge limit to storage. Snow down to 4,000 feet for longer is scads more water. The Yosemite valley used to see feet of snow per year even in dry years, however in the last 15 years, that has not been the case. Colder water is better quality too, doesn’t grow as much algae and retains more oxygen (and evaporates at a slower rate).
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Two, 30 years ago we did not have the level of development in Napa County that we do now. We have something like triple the number of wineries, that means at least three times fewer trees and therefore protected watersheds. We had limits to, and regulations for, growth and conditions for providing water for that growth for good reason. We have a Mediterranean climate which means average yearly rainfall is comparable to Beirut and Israel in many parts of California. It is my belief that we have changed the climate here to a more semi-arid climate even in the lush Napa river watershed by cutting down Redwoods, Pines, and Live Oaks which are our fog-moisture entrapment reservoirs. These trees entrap fog which is another great source of summer and fall water.
Unless we change and rein in the growth and development mentality, we will see more drought, and less water security in the near future. We should be changing what growth and development means at least, including thoughtful resource planning and working around nature to develop land for human use, giving ground to nature in other areas to accommodate our plans. Redevelopment and using what we already have should also be part of growth and development for human use.