Drought Q&A: Why can’t we transport snow from the East Coast to California?

Published: Sunday, Mar. 2, 2014 - 9:12 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 2, 2014 - 11:10 pm

Eyeing the snow on the East Coast, a Davis resident sees an easy fix to California’s drought. But getting all that white stuff here isn’t simple. Got a drought question? Submit it to The Bee’s team of drought reporters at www.sacbee.com/water.

I keep reading about large amounts of snow blanketing the eastern U.S. Why can’t that snow be transported to California? – Tim Bruening, Davis

Snow is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Transporting it in bulk would require a massive effort. A cubic foot of good, wet snow weighs about 12 pounds and contains about 1.5 gallons of water. A typical tractor-trailer has the capacity to haul about 3,200 cubic feet, not including equipment to keep it from melting.

Customers in the city of Sacramento alone use about 106 million gallons of water a day. So it would take more than 20,000 tractor-trailers stuffed with snow to supply Sacramento with a day’s worth of water.

– Phillip Reese

In trying to conserve my kitchen water and continue to recycle cans and jars, is it preferable to wash peanut butter and oily jars and like items, put them in the recycle dirty, or put them in the trash? – Nancy Vizzard, Sacramento

Generally speaking, there is no need to wash containers before recycling them, according to CalRecycle, the state agency that oversees product recycling in California. Most recycling centers are equipped to deal with dirty containers.

Some local agencies may have slightly different guidelines. The city of Sacramento, for instance, advises on its website that containers should be rinsed before recycling. But that is considered a “best practice,” said spokeswoman Jessica Hess.

“The city will not reject most recyclables that haven’t been washed,” she said via email. “The only exception is Styrofoam takeout containers, as they get especially contaminated by food.”

Instead of rinsing, she suggests wiping recyclables with a paper towel, if possible.

Another approach is to scrape out containers with a spatula or other tool. It’s important to get containers clean enough so oily, goopy remnants don’t contaminate other recyclables such as paper and cardboard, which may reduce their recycling value.

– Debbie Arrington

We are in the San Juan Water District, and are to decrease our indoor use of water by 20 percent and eliminate outdoor watering. We have camellias that are about 50 years old. Can your gardeners give us some ways to conserve indoor water and gray water to water them? They like acid, so water that contains soap and is therefore basic (alkali) would need to be neutralized; can it be done, and if so, how? Adding vinegar? Should the plants be pruned severely? – Linda Johnson, Granite Bay

The good news: Camellias are pretty tough. Your shrubs already have survived droughts, just not one quite this bad.

Camellias, a favorite flower in Sacramento, have quite a bit of natural drought tolerance. Sacramento earned its “Camellia City” nickname because of the many bushes in this area that date back to the 1920s or earlier. Camellias adapt well to our climate, including its dry spells.

To reach their advanced age, your plants have developed deep roots that can reach moisture a foot or more below the surface. That will help during this crisis.

Camellias need the most water during bloom stage, which is right now. Recent rain helped them out there.

Start irrigating them in March on a once-a-week, plant-by-plant basis. If planted in the ground, a large shrub needs 1 to 2 gallons of water a week. You can catch that much in a bucket while waiting for your shower to warm up in the morning.

Camellias don’t like gray water; that’s water that’s been used for laundry, baths or dishwashing. It usually contains soap, which can build up in the soil. As you noted, camellias prefer acidic soil. Along with azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias can’t deal with soap buildup. Adding vinegar won’t balance out the pH.

Don’t prune your camellias. They need little if any pruning during normal water years. Pruning prompts them to grow more, which requires more, not less, water.

– Debbie Arrington

Read more articles by Bee Metro Staff



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