Helicopters were filled with water from fire trucks to put out the 2014 Lodge Fire in Northern California.
This helicopter carried water to extinguish the 2014 Lodge Fire in Northern California, which filled the air of Mendocino with smoke. Photo by TC Johnny Appleweed.
Helicopters were filled with water from fire trucks to put out the 2014 Lodge Fire in Northern California.
This Black Hawk helicopter was a part of the efforts to extinguish the 2014 Lodge fire in Northern California, which filled the air of Mendocino with smoke. Photo by TC Johnny Appleweed.

As the rain dances on the roof of Nubia Farms, I wonder, “How many farmers right now are catching rain?” It’s amazing to see just one aspect of growing a can take a look at and realize how complicated it can become.  Water is quite a hot commodity these days, with California reservoirs ranging anywhere from 9% to 66% capacity. California needs a lot of water.

How are we as farmers going to deal with it?  We all need water to stay alive, plants more so than us. They’re made up of 90% water whereas animals are about 75% water by weight. The plant will use that water directly when it captures the light energy of the sun then transforms into useful food molecules. The reason for talking about water today is because it’s such an integral part of farming. How good is your water? Have you had it tested? How do you store it? How are you going  deploy it and get it to the plants? Are you going to use a gravity-fed system?  Are you hand-feeding them or using a mechanized pump system to feed your plants? The questions can keep going and going …

Mendocino is known for its wood, timber, soil trucks, and water tank trucks. I can’t tell you how many trucks I’ve seen rolling up the 101 with two, three, or even five tanks hitched up with each tank holding anywhere from 200 to 5000 gallons, sometimes taking up the entire flatbed. Now we don’t need to be as extravagant as a 5000-gallon tank unless that’s what is needed for what you will be growing. Start with a couple 50-gallon trash cans outside your house right off the drains from the gutters during the rainy season. Again, the amount you need to store depends on what you are growing and what you need to feed it.

Reflecting on the 2014 Lodge Lightning Fire

Last year up in Mendocino during the Lodge lightning fire, water trucks were a huge priority; there aren’t a lot of fire hydrants here like there are in suburbia. What few hydrants there were had water trucks lined up to fill their tanks to only then be driven down the street to feed the Black Hawk helicopters and other equipment. Around 2000 people helped fight this fire on the ground and in the sky.

Sparked by a lightning strike, the Lodge fire scorched over 12,000 acres, injured 15 people and destroyed local wildlife. Getting water from a water truck service was understandably tough business last summer. At the time, a few friends just about ran out of water for their plants, not something you want to have happen in the middle of July when you have 8-foot plants vegging ready to flower. On top of all the smoke choking the plants for oxygen and helicopters flying around all hours of the day like a war zone, the plants were already stressed. But that’s a completely different story.

How Some Farmers are Preparing to Conserve Water

Last week, I was speaking to a fellow farmer who upgraded to a 2 million-gallon water reservoir in anticipation of the upcoming grow season. They began this project once they realized that the reservoirs they were using would not be enough for them to last through the summer for what they wanted to grow. This year I have a friend not even using his outdoor garden to conserve on water for the state, and I myself am holding off on some world record pumpkin seeds given to me by a friend.

What measures are you taking to conserve water this summer? Sound off in the comments. 


  1. On these water reservoirs how long would the water last if their was no rain and no water was being drawn?

    I’m curious because with evaporation and drainage is there any way to get this water to store throughout the summer season without being replenished?

    I’m at high elevation, 4200′, in the sierras and get 30+” of rain even in the drought so my ground water is constantly being filled, but I recieve less than .25″ of rain a month June-September, and 30″ mostly from November-May.

    I thought of building a 250,000 gallon pond on my hill but older locals just laugh and say it’ll be bone dry from mid June to October.

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