This is a story about baseball. And rain…
The year was 1948; the Boston Braves were in the middle of a pennant race, led by their two ace pitchers, lefty Warren Spahn and righty Johnny Sain. The Braves, as all teams did in those days utilizing efforts to not overuse their pitchers, used a four man starting pitching rotation. Meaning that their two ace pitchers would only start half of the games for their team and the other two less accomplished starters would start the other half of the team’s games.
According to baseball lore it goes something like this. Late in the ’48 season an unusual series of circumstances took place. Due to a couple of off days and a game or two postponed due to rain, the dynamic duo of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were able to start almost all of their team’s games over a two week stretch. Spahn and Sain were able to achieve a record of 8 wins and 0 losses over a 12 day period. Remarkable!
Shortly after that, with that 12 day stretch in mind, a Boston Post Sports Editor further immortalized Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain when he wrote this poem for the newspaper:
First we’ll use Spahn, then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day, followed by rain
Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain
This untitled poem soon took the name, and has since been known simply as –
Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain
But the rest of this article is a story about so much more.
Now, as we enter 2014, the need to “pray for rain” is even more vital and more important than ever before. Certainly the need is more vital than it was in 1948, to postpone a few baseball games.
California, and much of the western United States, is in the midst of the third consecutive year of drought. And through these three years, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
For much of the west, the rain just isn’t falling, the snow pack is light to non-existent, the water holding reservoirs are receding and the water tables and aquifers are falling to historic levels. Let me give you some insight from some recent news reports:
- In 2013, cities such as Los Angeles and Fresno endured their driest calendar year on record.
- Bakersfield has an annual average of 6.47 inches of rain/year. In 2013 it was a mere 3.43.
- Fresno has an annual average of 11.5 inches. The year 2013 brought just 3.01.
- And in San Francisco, were rain is common, and averages 20.5 inches/year … 2013 saw 3.38 inches … for the entire year!
- There is not much of a Sierra Nevada Mountain snowpack this winter either. Normally, approximately 60% of California’s water is held in these high mountains for future use later in the year. During the first week of January, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) did their first snow survey of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The results were alarming:
- The average water content through snowpack measurements – throughout the southern, central and northern Sierra Nevada’s - show only about 20% of normal water content for that same time of year against the historical averages.
- Also according to the DWR – the water storing reservoirs are at concerning current water levels as well. Here is a sampling from throughout the state –
- San Luis Reservoir – 43% of average
- Shasta Lake – 58%
- Lake Oroville – 66%
- Pine Flat Reservoir – 45%
- Success Lake – 48%
- Kaweah Lake 75%
- And then, maybe one of the least thought of, but most concerning water situations, is that of our underground aquifers, water wells and water tables – (out of sight and out of mind?). According to a recent study by Gannet Newspapers they note the following concerns to California’s underground water supply:
- 40% of the state’s water supply is underground.
- 20% of the nation’s underground water pumping takes place in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley.
- 62% of the state’s wells dropped between 2000 and 2013.
- The average drop in water levels among the declining wells was over 15 feet.
- 121 wells in the state – mostly in Southern and Central California had water level declines of more than 50 feet.
- Finally, The Sacramento Bee reported on January 9th that a large Northern California water agency (The San Juan Water District) is voluntarily asking their customers (265,000 people in the Sacramento suburbs of Citrus Heights, Orangevale and Folsom) to stop ALL outdoor watering. According to the report, this request is not mandatory … yet. But it could become so in February if the area does not get rain soon.
If this is not concerning enough, maybe the most concerning of all is a prediction from Nicholas Bond of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, located in Seattle WA. He, as well as other climate scientists, say the west’s dry spell may be a preview of future droughts, which are expected to occur more often as the climate warms. In other words, we may be looking at the new normal.
So what can we do? How can we adapt and adjust? Again … What can we do?
Well, we should humble ourselves and pray for rain like the folks in Boston did in 1948. That’s great and very worthwhile!
But, while we are praying, there are other practical water conservation efforts that we can do, most are easy and require just a little bit of forethought or small changes in habits:
- Install low flow shower heads or toilets.
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn off the water to your faucet while shaving, brushing your teeth or washing your dishes.
- If you have a swimming pool, consider a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
- Check for leaks in your faucets and sprinklers.
- Cut down on outdoor landscape watering.
- Install drip irrigation where possible.
- When using the hose, make sure it has a hose nozzle with shut off capabilities.
- Plant low native or low water usage plants.
- Apply mulch to the landscaped areas of your yard. That’s our business! Not only does mulching look beautiful, inhibit weed growth, add nutrients to out soil, but it is one of the best ways we can reduce evaporation and water usage in our landscapes and gardens.
These are just a few recommendations, there are many others that I’m sure you know of or already employ.
Thank you for joining in the effort to conserve our natural resources, in this case, the precious water that we need for all aspects of our life and business. Every drop counts and it must start with each of us, both personally and corporately!
Now say it with me, “Spahn and Sain and …Pray for Rain”.