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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The good side to the drought

The California drought is big news. All farmers, not just grape growers, are worried about not having enough water for their crops. It's a $40 billion industry mostly in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys where ag is responsible for 80% of the water usage.

So what's the good news?

Tourism. With sunny skies and temps in the 60s and 70s wine country visitors have been plentiful. Another popular activity in Northern California this time of year is skiing, which has been awful this winter. So if you can't go skiing you might as well go wine tasting! For out-of-state visitors it's about escaping the storms and record cold temperatures in much of the country.

Weekends in Napa and Sonoma have seen lots of visitor traffic through the traditionally slower months of November, December, and January. I was in Calistoga, in the northern Napa Valley (the "quiet" side), a couple Saturdays ago trying to get a parking place in town--that didn't happen as the main street was full of traffic. It looked like summer--and it almost felt like summer, too, with the warm sun.

The potentially good news.

At the very end of January the weather pattern has changed to a more traditional one with cooler temperatures and some rain. As yet, not nearly enough precipitation to relieve the drought, but anything is good.

Numerous religious groups in the state have been asking their followers to pray for rain. Last Saturday hundreds of Muslims gathered in San Francisco for an organized rain prayer. There's even controversy among religious leaders as to whether God is in the rain-making business. Hey, it can't hurt!

Folsom Lake reservoir east of Sacramento
Image from