Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waking up to an inch of rain

What with droughts and heat waves in the Midwest, floods in Texas, droughts and forest fires in Colorado and other weird climatic contortions, my hopes for a somewhat normal rainy season had risen steadily during the past three weeks.

Rain in this area is a one-shot, three-month-long event, beginning in July and ending in September. We've had rains in January but they are not something we can count on.

The other nine months of the year are dry and sunny, with predictable late-afternoon winds sucking whatever moisture there is in the ground and the plants. Watering the trees we've planted becomes urgent, almost desperate, just before the rainy season. Around March many of our evergreens had started to yellow and the diagnosis from the nursery man was quick and to the point: Those guys need water, now. 

There are deep wells in this area but nowadays they are yielding bad news along with water, as aquifer levels drop precipitously. At one well about five miles from here, the water level has dropped about one and a half meters in the past two years. In the town of Los Rodríguez, in the opposite direction, earlier this year some wells dried up altogether.

And that's it. Other than rains and wells, we don't have any Great Lakes or great rivers to tap to get water.  

Early rains in late June and early July were promising but frustrating. Dark, thundering clouds would advertise more than they delivered, a quarter-inch one day, a half-inch two days later, but not the gully-washer Stew kept hoping for.

We remember last year when it rained early on in the season and then quit. The farmers had hitched up their horses and plowed and seeded the fields, only to see their the crops wither and die in August and September.

So far the grass has turned greenish, not green, and the thousands of cosmos in bud remain stunted and indecisive, unsure whether to explode in a lavender wave or wait for the rainy season to begin in earnest.

Last night we received a full blast of rain, beginning with thunder, lightning and hail. It slowed down to a gentler rain that went on for hours. By this morning we'd received a full inch of rain, and by two o'clock today another shower had started.

It's looking good but I won't stop worrying until we get so much rain that the dry creeks near our bedroom are filled and running, the whooshing of the water putting us to sleep as it rushes past to fill the reservoirs downhill.


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