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Severe Drought in California

30 Apr 2014  |   Hannah Blatt

California is currently facing one of the worst droughts in its history, which is leading to a shortage in water for consumers, farmers, and wildlife. This is a serious problem, and with the rainy season coming to a close there’s no sign that the situation will improve anytime soon. Scientists have long projected that California and the rest of the Southwest would face these kinds of harsh droughts more frequently because of man-made climate change, and now a new study is even linking this particular drought to climate change. 

The photo below shows just how severely this drought is affecting the state. “One hundred percent of the state is in some state of drought,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit water-policy research group. “Three-quarters is in extreme or extraordinary drought … There’s no relief in sight.” 

(Photo from the United States Drought Monitor Website)

California doesn’t get a lot of rain on a normal year, and always has to balance competing interests for the states’ finite water resources. However, during a drought the limited drinking water has to stretch even further. That’s why back in January, Governor Jerry Brown declared California to be in a State of Emergency, and asked the residents to pitch in by cutting their water usage by 20 percent. A handful of cities have mandated water restrictions, barring residents from watering their gardens and lawns, refilling their pools, and hosing their driveways. The water shortage also poses real threats to fish and wildlife, including salmon and the more than billion dollar industry it supports. 

The water shortage is also severely affecting California’s farmers who produce approximately half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts. Many farmers are not getting irrigation water from the state and federal government, and the lucky ones are receiving substantially less water than normal. Other farmers are simply tapping into their water wells, but even those have a limited supply of water. This shortage of water could result in up to 800,000 acres of farmland not growing food. Also, the Department of Agriculture is forecasting a 35 percent decline in cotton production and a 20 percent decline in the state’s rice crops from the previous year. This drought will result in many farmers and fisherman out of work, and our food prices rising across the country.

California’s drought should be a wake-up call for our nation to take action on climate change, because this type of extreme weather will only become more intense and more frequent. Take this short quiz to see how much you know about the California drought, and then make your voice heard to your elected official.  

(The Photograph was taken by CraneStation)



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