The urban experience of the California drought is conceptual. Water flows out of our taps at the same rate it always has, sending no emergency signal that California's water is running out. Because I own 10 acres of forest in the Sierra foothills, I see another side of things, the very tangible evidence of drought on our land.
Our firs and pines are dying from beetle infestation, which healthy trees can withstand. We have hand-watered young forest seedlings for years now, keeping them alive so that they can fill in gaps from previous logging.
This is inconvenient and physically demanding, some would say its flat-out silly. We've got no water or power on our acreage, and, until now, we've hauled in every drop of water we've used. The containers weigh about 50 pounds each. Carrying a few of those around will quickly convince you to reduce your water use.
Last week, we drilled a well, certainly for our own convenience, but mostly for fire suppression. El Dorado County requires a well on site before you can build a barn or a bunkhouse. Are you envisioning a charming stone structure with a bucket, a rope, and a crank handle? That's all in the past. Wells now are tiny holes six inches wide in the ground, never open to the air, with machinery buried inside and plumbing sitting on top of a concrete seal. And the wells are very, very deep.
The driller knew our area and estimated we'd get a good flow at about 250 feet. We got an adequate flow, not really good, at twice that depth, at 560 feet. Water in the foothills runs through fractures in bedrock. It's not an underground lake. When the rains come back, our well might pick up more flow from pockets we passed that are now dry.