LA’s Drought Conundrum

So the drought is over, right?
The short answer is well, maybe.

As the summer season swings into action and temperatures start to rise, it’s the perfect time to remember that as Angelenos, we all have the responsibility to act as stewards for our water and urban trees — even during a record-wet year like this one.

Whether or not we are “in drought” depends not only on the amount of rain we receive but also on temperature — as Peter Gleick, one of the brilliant minds at the Pacific Institute in Oakland has noted. Hot, dry conditions that define our Southern Californian summers mean that demand for water rises with the temperature. So even after record-breaking rainfall, if our temperatures reach new highs, our water storage may not be enough.

The past five years were the hottest in California’s records, and up until our previous wet winter, they were the driest, too. We are living in an era of weather extremes and, as our own Andy Lipkis likes to say:

We are already experiencing drier ‘dries,’ wetter ‘wets,’ and hotter ‘hots’ — and we can only expect more.

So while much of California is reportedly out of drought, LA County is not out the woods. Abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions persist, and they will only increase in intensity through the summer.

What does this mean for our trees?

While we were blessed with a carpet of green vegetation and colorful wildflowers this spring,  now with our landscape turning to gold, it’s a great time to remember to keep our hard-working friends — THE TREES! — watered and happy with these 3 tips:

  • Check the soil around your trees weekly. If it’s still moist, no need to water — go enjoy a lemonade.
  • Give a young tree 15 gallons of water once a week, if the soil is dry.
  • Slowly water mature trees once or twice a month so the soil is moist 12 to 18 inches down.

Once your trees at home are cared for, volunteer with us as we care for the trees in our parks, streets and local mountains!

Together we can ensure that our trees will thrive for years to come, drought or no drought!

Edith de Guzman, Director of Research, Natural Urban Systems Group, has been with TreePeople since 2003, where she manages research into best practices for the sustainable transformation of the Greater Los Angeles area. Exploring environmental, social and economic aspects of urban ecosystems, she works to collect and disseminate research that identifies the efficacy, benefits and applicability of various approaches to urban sustainability, with a special focus on watershed management. Edith received a master’s in Urban Planning from UCLA and a bachelor’s in History/Art History, also from UCLA.