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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Rain

         Rain! Glorious rain!

Those of us who live in the Central Valley of California, geographically known as the San Joaquin Valley, enjoy the abundance of farming that the Valley is best known for. However, the past couple of winters have produced little to no rain, placing our state in a perilous condition. We rely on a significant wet season to replenish the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, along with our innumerable dams. “There are over 1,400 named dams, and 1,300 named reservoirs in the state of California.”

Now, for some of you reading this article you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? So you haven’t had a lot of rain – you obviously still have water – right?” This is true. However, the levels of the dams in our region of California from which we draw our water and power are perilously low. One of the complaints that you will frequently hear is the need for more dams to be built. This may be true, but it does cause me to stop and consider: Do we really need more dams when the state has 1,400 of them, plus 1,300 reservoirs? The answer may well be yes. I’ll leave that to the experts. Another part of the argument centers on the need for new dams. You will often hear the complaint that we haven’t built a new dam since the 1970s (this is not true). This always sounds like a legitimate argument, and it may well be. But what leads to this thinking is the contentious debate over the proper use of the water that we have.

Our home backs one of the major rivers that runs through the Central Valley – the Stanislaus River. There are days-on-end when the level of the river is at its highest point. The reasons given for this, when we are in the midst of one of the worst draughts we’ve had in decades, usually revolve around 1) the aforementioned reservoir/dam issue, 2) politicians in Sacramento (a favorite target for complaint, deserved or otherwise), 3) saving certain fish from extinction, 4) preventing the encroachment of saltwater inland, and 5) certain farmers/growers use too much water anyway. Blood pressure and tempers tend to spike over these endless arguments. One thing is for certain: the Central Valley desperately needs water this winter.

The Central Valley, “the land of a billion vegetables,” covers a distance of around 450 miles running northwest to southeast, from Sacramento to Bakersfield, safely sandwiched between a coastal range of low mountains to the west and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, roughly 40-60 miles wide. This geographical area covers 22,500 square miles. To drive through the Valley is to witness some of the most productive, yet diverse agricultural area anywhere in the world. “The valley became widely known in the 1920s and 1930s, when farmers arrived from Virginia or Armenia or Italy or (like Tom Joad, [John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath”]) Oklahoma and wrote home about the clean air, plentiful water and cheap land. Now the valley yields a third of all the produce grown in the United States. Unlike the Midwest, which concentrates (devastatingly) on corn and soybeans, more than 230 crops are grown in the valley, including those indigenous to South Asia, Southeast Asia and Mexico, some of which have no names in English. At another large farm, I saw melons, lettuce, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, chard, collards, prickly pears, almonds, pistachios, grapes and more tomatoes than anyone could conceive of in one place (The valley is the largest supplier of canned tomatoes in the world too.)” (New York Times Magazine, “Everyone Eats There,” Mark Bittman, October 10, 2012).

So, without overstating the obvious, rain is essential for this area not only for California, but for the nation and the world. Ripon, where we live, has the best conditions in the world for growing almonds. Yet the largest market for almonds is Asia and India.

Despite the rancor over the need and use of water for the valley that swirls in the corridors of the capitol in Sacramento, we haven’t learned to create water. So perhaps we should take the matter of humbling ourselves before God, imploring him to provide us with the required amounts of water, “the elixir of life,” and focus our attention on the Creator who ultimately causes everything to grow.

Here in our area we’ve had rain twice in the past 48 hours. I trust this is a positive harbinger of a winter of rain to come. Despite the fact that it interrupted, and ultimately canceled a golf tournament I was in, it was glorious to experience the sensation of rain.

It has been said that when you pray for rain, carry an umbrella.

Amen.

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