Allow me to begin this month’s column with a bit of commiseration.
If you live and work along the Missouri River, or the Mississippi or, for that matter, any of the waterways swollen by an unusually wet spring or record snowpack and then spilling dangerously over its banks, I don’t mean to dismiss your predicament. I’m going to be talking about a different phenomenon – one, in fact, that’s the polar opposite of your situation. Too much water is just as devastating as too little, and I can understand if you wince when you read about the challenges of limited water supplies.
But such is the nature of, well, nature. While homes and businesses – entire towns, for that matter – were inundated this spring by powerful walls of water, others are struggling to survive record drought. As I write this, it’s been determined that 98 percent of Texas is suffering drought. And 60 percent of that is deemed “extreme” or “exceptional”; exceptional drought is cracked soil, scorched earth dry. The period from October 2010 through May 2011 is said to be the driest eight-month period on record for Texas since 1895. Some say it’s the worst ever.
There are other states currently experiencing drought conditions, of course, as there are each year. But I’m referring to Texas here as an example because of its astonishing size – and the astonishing breadth of its drought. Border to border (to border), Texas comprises some 268,581 square miles, about 6,700 of which are water. Assuming, then, about 19,800 square miles of land, think about the acreage involved: approximately 12,672,000 acres. Ninety-eight percent of that in drought?
Let’s put that into perspective: The state of Texas is as large as all of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina combined. Deny those states rainfall of any significance. “Ouch” doesn’t begin to describe the trauma.
Whether or not you subscribe to the concept of global climate change, you cannot deny that extreme weather challenges the best practices of the best-prepared professionals. If you live near a river, you understand the threat of floods. If you live on a fault line, you understand the threat of temblors. If you live in the Great Plains or the Midwest, you understand the threat of twisters. Dealing with the aftermath of these phenomena is horrific, but preparing to the best of our abilities is about the best we can do.
With that in mind, I’d like to draw attention to the fact that July is “Smart Irrigation Month,” as designated by the Irrigation Association. No, this is not a commercial for the IA and yes, it actually does relate. We cannot ameliorate exceptional drought conditions by practicing “smart” irrigation during the month of July. That’s not the point. Like other awareness campaigns, Smart Irrigation Month is positioned to educate during an intensive period, with the expectation that the results will last throughout the year – and beyond.
If you turn to the IA web site (www.irrigation.org) and click on the “Resources” tab, you’ll access all sorts of information about the program. What I’d like to emphasize is this: “Smart Irrigation Month is an … initiative to increase public awareness of the value of water-use efficiency … and grow demand for water-saving products, practices and services.”
Growing demand for water-wise plants, perhaps. Growing demand for water-wise planting schemes, too. Growing demand for the knowledge and expertise of green industry professionals, who can lead the way to creating environments that can stand up to the challenge of wicked weather.
We can’t fight Mother Nature, true, but we can do our best to work with her.