What Not to Say to Californians During the Drought

The view I long for.

If you haven’t heard, we’re having a drought here in California. It’s our third dry year. The first year I think we were pretty okay… There are dry years… These things happen…There’s a natural cycle of things…

The second year, it was definitely dryer than we hoped, but we were still pretty much okay. It’s happened before… Two dry years is manageable… We can do this…

This year- year three- was different. There were no jokes or assurances. People chat in line at the stores or after meetings with worry and questions. What are we going to do? Do you think we can make it another year? My local grocery store keeps the rain totals on a whiteboard near the checkout stands. People cast anxious glances as that number doesn’t change much and is a fraction of last year’s (and remember, last year was dry).

Every storm was welcomed like a much-loved relative coming home. We waited for the storm to arrive with smiles and boots and umbrellas at the ready. We all swore we wouldn’t complain about rain or mud or power outages, just give us the water.


But every storm failed to bring as much rain/snow as was forecast. Prayed for. Hoped for.

Every. Single. One. Some didn’t come at all.

Blue, cloudless skies seemed to mock. We tried to enjoy what we usually consider “nice” weather, but we really would have rather splashed in mud puddles.

We got excited about a rumor saying it would be an El Nino year. We’re saved! And then those stories were quickly discounted and news it could be another dry year came out.

In May, I drove through the middle of California headed South. Windstorms evoked history lessons of the Dust Bowl as farmers couldn’t farm due to lack of water. Hills were end of summer brown- in Spring. Boats were dry docked because water levels had constricted so far from the marinas.

So here we are in August and I’m here to tell you: It’s scary.

And I really wish people would stop saying things like:

1. If only we could send you our water/rain/storms.  You can’t and it kind of feels like you’re kicking us while we’re down. We are hurting and worried. This kind of sentiment is a little like “let them eat cake”.

2. Well, people better stop doing that ice bucket challenge. Yes, if it we had those buckets of water that would end a three year catastrophic drought. We must conserve, but let’s not overstate things or find a reason to hate on an amazingly great thing for ALS research and care. A good friend to my husband has ALS right now. I am not going to begrudge awareness, comfort, and increased research funding.

3. Don’t Californians all drink Evian anyway? California has more diversity than most states all put together. To invoke stereotypes that we’re all movie stars sipping expensive water is offensive and petty. I can handle a lot of teasing about California. I’m a good sport. But save it when it comes to this drought, m’kay?

4. Empty all the swimming pools. Some are being emptied. Some are being emptied to fight forest fires because of the dry conditions. Others are being sipped by animals too thirsty to stay away from chemically treated water that will poison them. Feel better?

5. Well, if that Governor hadn’t done thus and so. It did not rain or snow enough. That has nothing to do with what happened in the voting booth. How the water we have is allotted and how efforts are managed can be political. But frankly, no one is going to do it perfectly. It can not be done. Because what would be perfect is RAIN.

I guess, what I am feeling as I write this is: It is serious. And scary. We have bare shelves in the grocery store because of shortages from the cutbacks to farming. People are losing livelihoods. The barren farmland with top soil blowing across the freeway I saw looked apocalyptic. I turn away from the reservoir I drive by because I can’t bear to see the vanishing water. We have wildlife issues because they are seeking water closer in than ever. The danger of wildfires…the list goes on.

Efforts to be funny or light are not appreciated.

Maybe after it rains some. But not now.

What is appreciated? Compassion. Prayer. You know, the usual when people are suffering.