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Water and Fire

Weather is one of the safest conversation topics unless you go deeper and then it is more like politics and religion. Whole systems are built around weather and its seasonality. Natural resource industries like farming or ranching or timber can be blessed or hampered by the weather. New industries can be created or shuttered based on the availability of water and temperature. 

I read a farming newspaper and right now the two main agricultural issues are wildfires and drought. They go hand in hand, no rain equals more fire, also no water equals no fish, no vegetables, no fruitt and no Watermelons!

There are some deep differences around water, water use and the shifting weather patterns. The amount of water used to fight forest fires is staggering and the need is increasing due to the fire season starting earlier. And to complicate matters more folks have moved into the fire zone and harm’s way. 

A side issue around fire season is Washington State L & I is proposing a new rule on air quality and worker health. Washington is proposing that when the Air Quality Index hits 69 outside workers will have to stop work, find work inside, be given more breaks and/ or masks. The Federal limit is 151. There is also a rule where at 85 degrees farmworkers must stop outdoor work. Keeping up on regulation is an unrelenting task for small businesses and farmers. I will keep monitoring the changes, but the increase in fires and droughts is going to be impacting a lot of natural resource industries.

For us as Western WA Farmers and in particular NW Washington farmers we do get a break from the excessive heat that our neighbors to the east experience. But we still have a need for water to irrigate our crops and pastures. For us, the weather is working for and against us. New pests have begun to arrive, and milder winters have helped with their ability to over winter and survive. We can also grow more crops reliably outside that have been staples for growers east and south. And the increase in fires and poor air quality are bringing with them new regulations.

I imagine one day, if the weather trend continues, I will be able to grow cantaloupes and watermelons. Ironically, if I can farm cantaloupes and watermelons in Stanwood, that will not bode well for California farmers or Eastern Washington farmers. I can only imagine how hot it will be in those regions.

Having water available for fish, farms and people is going to be where the battle lines are drawn. And will green lawns and forests have to be sacrificed for fish and food production. Our current food supply is based on a plentiful supply of water and consequently, so are our lives.

Managing the weather, the evolving climate changes and government regulation is a big part of my job now. Thankfully these changes are mostly gradual and hopefully, the natural resources community can gradually make the changes necessary to keep growing food.