Water is becoming more of a precious commodity

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Here in Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding area, water is rather plentiful. There have a recent number of years where precipitation totals have been above normal. Last year, Cliff measured 39.41 inches of rain and melted snow, compared to a normal of 26.77. Despite one of the driest summer seasons in the region’s history in 2017, there was plenty of moisture in the early and late portion of 2017. For the first three months of last year, about 17.50 inches of precipitation was measured.

Our weather pattern has turned drier than normal — temperatures are getting hotter as more 90-degree days are expected this month. For the 2018 season through mid-July, Cliff has measured 17.41 inches, compared to a normal of a little less than 14.50 inches. This month, only a puny 0.04 inches of rain has fallen. In July of 2017, there was only 0.05 inches. We normally see 0.92 inches of rain in July, so it looks like another month with below-normal precipitation for North Idaho and the surrounding region.

Our next chance of any rainfall is not expected until at least the last few days of the month — if even then, thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure that’s locked in over the western U.S. August should start out dry as well, but if sea-surface temperatures continue to climb over the next several months, conditions should start turning to the wetter side this fall season.

With this current dry period, Cliff is still forecasting our annual precipitation total for Coeur d’Alene to end up at 35.11 inches, so we could see another 18 inches of rain and melted snow between September and December. Cliff and I also believe that December should have a good chance of snowfall, which would likely give us a fourth white Christmas in a row. But this time around, snowfall totals for the 2018-19 season are expected to be below normal. We’ll just have to wait and see how much warmer ocean waters get between now and the end of the year.

We’re very fortunate that we usually don’t have to worry about water in our area. Places in the southwestern U.S. and other parts of the world are currently suffering from major drought conditions. For example, at Los Angeles International Airport, only 3.79 inches of rain has fallen since Oct. 1, 2017. The normal is just over 12.50 inches. Last year, the big Southern California airport had 12.07 inches. The extreme dryness has been fueling an outbreak of wildfires in the region this summer.

In Ireland, there have been crop losses and complete crop failures due to extended dryness. Many farmers say that this is the worst drought to hit its vegetable industry in living memory. The losses of precious crops have resulted in massive financial pressure and some officials believe that some growers will not be in operation next year.

There is, however, some good news about the big drought in southern Africa. Cape Town, South Africa, was suffering from a massive three-year drought that had officials threatening to turn off the taps to conserve water. Fortunately, recent downpours increased reservoir levels from 45 percent to nearly 52 percent in just 7 days. Forecasts of more rainfall is raising hopes that the huge drought will finally come to an end.

Droughts have become in issue across other parts of the world. In South America’s north-central Brazil, extended dryness has hurt winter corn crops. Recent droughts in Australia — especially in the southern portion where its major city, Sydney, is located — may be worst in about 800 years. The Middle East and North Africa continue to see large declines in rainfall, forcing farmers to abandon their fields.

According to a report by the World Bank called Uncharged Waters, “repeating droughts are destroying enough farm produce to feed 81 million people.”

Of course, in this pattern of wide weather “extremes,” where you have droughts on one side, you have floods on the other. Many areas from Iowa to the East Coast have been experiencing historical flooding.

Approximately 70 percent of our planet is covered with water. But, only 2.5 percent is fresh, drinkable water and only 1 percent is easily accessible as much of it is trapped in glaciers and snowfields. Of the total water on the Earth, only 0.007 percent is available to nearly 7 billion people. And, according to the United Nations, water use has grown by more than twice the rate of the population increases within the last century. It’s estimated that each person uses an average of 100 gallons of water per day.

Water is constantly being recycled through evaporation, precipitation, runoff and so forth. Therefore, there’s a chance that the water we drink today may have been consumed by dinosaurs hundreds of millions of years ago. Stay cool.

•••

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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