This confirms what we expected after a ferocious rainy season that wreaked havoc throughout much the state. 

Key facts:

  • Just one year ago only 5% of the state was drought free
  • Sierra snowpack stands at 179% of its historic average (the biggest in 22 years)
  • San Joaquin Valley and most of Southern California remains in a “moderate drought”.
  • Much of Santa Barbara and Ventura county areas is in severe drought or extreme drought. Although that statistic is down from 2016.

In case you want to know where your water comes a KQED website has an interactive map.  Check it out.

Do you want to know where your water comes from?

Left: Map of 2015
Right: Map of 2017

The list below give you an in depth look at how full our reservoirs are





San Pablo Creek


East Bay

Also Briones, Lake Chabot, Lafayette -all full.

San Leandro Creek


East Bay


Lake Mendocino




Lake Sonoma




Marin Reservoirs




San Andreas Creek


SF and Peninsula


Crystal Springs


 SF and Peninsula


*based on 2017 average percentage capacity

Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Board has expressed relief that water conditions have improved so dramatically, but state policy makers remain cautious.  They voted to continue with mild drought rules and re-evaluate in May.  We will know more about any irrigation regulations by that time.  And, water conservation will likely to be an important issue.

At this time:

Water agencies are still required to report use each month

Wasteful practices such as hosing off pavements and use of hoses without nozzles remain banned.

Sources for this article: San Jose Mercury News, NOAA, KQED.



San Francisco Bay Area – The California Department of Water Resources reminds us that it’s time to turn off your irrigation!

The rains we have had and forecasts for more are sufficient in the short term. Remember that trees, shrubs and flowers use less water in the winter.  One inch of rain is enough moisture to eliminate the need for irrigation in your landscape for at least a few weeks.

On the other hand, we don’t know for sure what the weather gods have in store much beyond this week’s forecasted drenching. Keep an eye out for your plants and water if you notice them looking drought stressed.

Check out the Department of Water Resources for more information.




Gardeners’ Guild is obsessed with weather.  Well – we are a landscape contracting company and we must adapt on a moment’s notice to rain, high winds and unseasonable heat or frost.  We also stay on top of long term forecasting because our clients depend on us to help them manage their resources.

I personally am obsessed with it. One, I need to since our San Francisco Bay Area readers are.  And two, I find it fascinating. 

Our recent heavy rain seems to suggest a wet winter.  Yes! More is predicted this weekend.  Will our reservoirs be full by next spring?  An article in the San Jose Mercury News and the most recent post on has some indications based on weather forecast modeling.

We are still officially in a drought, however.  If you look at the map above you can see why.

However, there are parts of the Bay Area that have been downgraded to just “abnormally dry”.  These counties are Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz, Western Napa and Western Santa Clara. Unfortunately, Santa Clara County, as well as Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano, San Benito and Monterey remain officially in a drought. 

Water experts say that it would take a “very wet winter – all across the state – or perhaps two wet years – to end the drought statewide.

Forecasting from post on October 25th described conflicting information that obscures any long term rainy season forecast. In his article, Daniel Swain says that climate modeling suggests a few possibilities:

  • Another Pacific high pressure ridge again
  • A warm winter
  • A possibility that Northern California’s will enjoy more precipitation than Southern California

Swain, in his last post, suggested that a La Niña was less likely. But his October article says we are “edging back to a La Niña-like” event. His evidence is cool water in the eastern Pacific and a warming trend for the tropical West Pacific.  This, he says is linked to an unusually high pressure system.

I wish could pass on better news.  And, of course we don’t know for sure.  That’s kind of frustrating. So continue rain dances, visualizing and we will continue offering advice on water conservation and irrigation that saves water.

The California drought map shown above represents the state as of November 10th. (2016). 

Some additional facts about the rain in October:
The October drenching was the wettest since 1921
San Francisco ‘s rainfall was 209% of average
But, the soil was dry and therefore the rain did not increase water levels as much as you would think. 

San Jose Mercury News


Do you live in a San Francisco Bay Area city with no yard?

Do you like to eat healthy and buy the same vegetables each week, bemoaning their rising costs?

If you have a porch, deck, balcony, small patio, stair landing, or windowsill, consider growing container vegetables this fall. You will save money, find they taste better, last longer than store-bought and have the satisfaction of growing them yourself!

It is easier than you think. The fastest way to do it is to purchase young plants from your local nursery and transplant into larger containers.  This will alleviate the issues you might encounter when starting from seed.  You will find young starter plants in a six-pack or 2 or 4” plastic pots.

There are several vegetables that grow well in the fall to winter. Most can take light to moderate frosts.

You will need to purchase these items.


Size and shape depend on –

How many plants of each type and their requirements for root growth and the space between each one.  Each plant on the list below has recommendations.  Most often your planters will need to be wider than tall.  Its overall size will depend on how much space you have and how many plants you want to grow.  We recommend that you start small.  You can always add later.  I have been to most of the bay area nurseries and there is a wide selection and sizes of clay pots reasonably priced.  Make sure they have drain holes.  I have also read that adding a thin layer of coarse gravel at the bottom of the container will enhance drainage.

Good Soil

High quality potting mix.  This is lighter than the typical bay area soil which is tends to be clay which lacks air pores to drain adequately.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money for this either.  Add compost if it is readily accessible.


They will come in either time-release granules or water soluble form.  Since you are starting small don’t buy a large quantity and follow the directions.  Using compost will also make your soil healthier. Note – container plants require more frequent watering which washes away fertilizer nutrients so they will need to be fertilized more frequently than plants in the ground.


Check with your local nursery first to find out if they carry young plants (seedlings) and if they don’t try to get a referral to one that does.  Check each plant that they appear to be well taken care of, have no flowers or fruits.  Discard plant with roots that are knotted and circled at the bottom of the pot or stems that look spindly.  See the right for some options.


Berkeley Horticultural Nursery
Pollinate Farm and Garden, Oakland
Armstrong Gardens (throughout Bay Area)
Sloat Garden Center (throughout Bay Area)
Annie’s Annuals, Richmond
Home Depot and Lowes may also have seedlings

Now you know the first steps of what to purchase.  See Part 2 for specific plants!


How A Neighborhood Drainage Problem Was Solved

I live in a semi-rural unincorporated neighborhood in North Marin.  Our houses are built on a steep hillside.  When it rains the water runs down the north side of the street and into a gutter with an underground pipe.  No sewers.

When the water flows unobstructed all is good.  Unfortunately, the street infrastructure is old and over time the pipe became increasingly blocked resulting in water damage on the south side of the street.  During last year’s El Niño it became critical and it threatened additional flooding of properties on the south side of the street. 

Fortunately, this summer neighbors came together to forge a solution.  The pipe was found to be decayed and mangled.  It was replaced and and a retaining wall was constructed.  The retaining wall offered an additional barrier so runoff would stream, not flood into the gutter.

The two projects were completed in enough time before the first big rain while the neighbors on the south side of the street breathed sighs of relief. 

I learned two lessons about drainage through this experience. 
One, lack of preparation can cause expensive damage and two, living in a community of active and collaborative people makes a big difference!