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Sunday, May 24

California has 4 months to accomplish what Singapore did over years

I'm now very cautious about giving suggestions regarding water conservation since I read the stunning information in the May 25 issue of the New Yorker, which still has me reeling.  This said, a large gift from the skies may descend on California in the fall, and the day the deluges start wouldn't be the time to scour Home Depot for rain barrels.

Granted, even if El Niño fulfills the highest hopes of North American meteorologists, a whopper would only make a dent in California's drought. But it would be a bigger dent if Californians tried to dot their state with catchments before the rains arrived.

I think the suggestion would go double if El Niño's appearance in N. America this year is as wimpy as last year.

Doubtful Californians could match the feat of Singaporeans, who turned their city-state into one big catchment system; that took years to accomplish. But with an all-out effort Californians could throw together a lot of catchments this summer.

In that regard I should think it would be a help if California's government launched a big PSA campaign to urge farmers in particular to set up catchments, and if Sacramento also put out a call on all media platforms for volunteers to teach small farms to make effective rain catchers fast and on the cheap.

Sacramento might answer that they already have their plate full with trying to manage 1,001 issues connected with the drought and with shoring the state, in particular San Joaquin Valley, against flooding.

I understand that last would be a race against time, now that weather data suggest El Niño could (emphasis on "could") pack a wallop in California this fall.  But I don't think the government would have to do much, just put out the call; private citizens would do the rest.

Another consideration is that small scattered catchments might be a better approach than building more large reservoirs.  Reservoirs are of course great catchments but from what I learned from the New Yorker report, don't they also prevent large amounts of rain from seeping into the earth and recharging underground water sources?

A way to thread the camel through the needle, to the extent this can be done, could be many small catchments, especially if they're placed in areas -- such as concrete parking lots -- where the rain wouldn't have a chance to seep into the ground anyhow.  So this would be a kind of 'guerrilla' catchment construction.

Just a thought.

One other consideration that's occurred to me: catchments are mosquito magnets. As we've learned from São Paulo's experience with a big dengue fever outbreak this year, mosquitoes do surprisingly well in droughts, especially in cities. This is because people store up water for personal use, often in open containers left outside.  Mosquito-borne diseases then spread quickly in a city because the containers are placed so close to domiciles.

So one has to take that into consideration when studying plans at websites that show how to make simple home catchment systems.

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