Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, saying California was in the grip of the worst drought it had seen in a century. Yesterday he said the drought could affect the state’s financial recovery. While growers around the Russian River Valley have been greeting each other with, “Pray for rain,” for a while, the drought is now becoming a concern for all Californians. With the drought obvious every time we look out a window – we have almost no cover crop and very little green growth in our yard to help with soil retention – Gantz Family Vineyards has been doing what we can to conserve water.
Here are some tips that have worked for us and might work for you, too:
- Say “goodbye” to some landscaping – We don’t have a formal lawn, but we put in new landscape plantings late last summer for a big party. They haven’t had the opportunity to mature and may have to be sacrificed rather than use precious water for ornamental irrigation.
- Spread hay – We’ve spread hay for mulch under our trees, roses and on wide swaths of dirt patches where the natural ground cover is dying. When it does rain, the hay will help keep the soil in place and break up the rain drops, allowing the moisture to soak into the ground slowly rather than running off the hard, compacted soil.
- Use natural frost protection – Because of the size, configuration and orientation of our land, we’ve been fortunate enough to need only the morning sun for our frost protection. While we do not use water for frost protection, we do understand that many growers absolutely depend on it during frost season.
- Postpone pruning – We plan to postpone pruning as long as possible to delay bud break. Early bud break means the fruit would be exposed to frost longer, damaging vines and fruit.
- Use grey water – We catch the water that runs from the faucet while rinsing fruits and vegetables or waiting for hot water. This grey water can be used to water any plants that survive the frost.
- Install water-efficient plumbing – The company that tore our farmhouse down to the studs and remodeled it – Leff Construction – encourages the efficient use of energy and resources. All of our toilets and showerheads are low-flow, and all of our faucets have aerators.
- Forgo baths – Showers only. You don’t understand what a sacrifice this is.
- Turn the water off – We turn off the water when brushing our teeth and washing our face and hands.
- Fill the machines –We hold laundry and dishwashing until the machines are completely full.
- Stink – We wear clothes a bit longer, and re-use bath towels so we don’t generate as much laundry.
- Keep the “Wash me” – We haven’t washed our cars in several weeks.
- For more ways to conserve water around the home, check out the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership campaign, "Drought On, Water Off."
- For ideas on how to manage a vineyard growing season with limited water, check out this list from Napa County UCCE. (Thanks to Kristin Lowe of Vine Balance Consulting for this great resource!)
- How do YOU conserve water? Please tell us in the comment section below so we can gather more great ideas!!