August 12, 2009

Waterwars: The New Dust Bowl in California pt 2

BNET Food Insights
Is California the New Dust Bowl?
Bryan Corliss February 26th, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

A three-year drought is taking its toll on California agriculture, and that could end up affecting what Americans eat — and how much we pay for it.

Reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada mountains are at about a third of their capacity, even with recent rains. Last week, the federal Bureau of Reclamation — which supplies about a quarter of all water used in Californias Central Valley — announced that it will not give California farmers any water this year, in an effort to save what it has for municipal, industrial and environmental purposes.

Cities too are feeling the pinch, with local governments rationing water to residential users and threatening fines for those who use more than their share.

The shortage of water for farming will have wide-ranging repercussions. As The Christian Science Monitor notes, California grows one-sixth of all the produce — those healthy fruits and vegetables — eaten in the United States. Agriculture experts say the water cutbacks announced so far will reduce farm acreage by 18 percent this year, enough have wide-ranging economic impacts.

Already, water shortfalls are leading to lost jobs for farm workers in places like Fresno. Losses could total some $2 billion for Californias $32 billion farming industry, and could cause long-term production losses, if the lack of water forces growers to cut down fruit or nut trees they cannot irrigate this year.

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