California May Have Hit Its Driest Point In 500 Years, And The Effects Are Frightening
This article comes from the HuffingtonPost.com
by Kathleen Miles
California is dry as a bone, and the effects are like something out of an apocalyptic film.
Cities are running out of water. Communities are fighting over what little water there is. Local governments are imposing rationing coupled with steep fines. Fires are ravaging the state. Entire species and industries are threatened.
For California, 2013 was the driest year since the state started measuring rainfall in 1849. Paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram says that, according to the width of old tree rings, California hasn’t been this dry for about 500 years.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared an emergency, President Barack Obama has pledged his support, and state and federal officials are stepping in to protect the state’s most vulnerable groups. Californians of various faiths have taken to holding prayer sessions, looking to the heavens for rain. Here are some of the drought’s effects so far.
Seventeen rural communities in California are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days, according to a list compiled by state officials. As the drought goes on, more communities are likely to be added to the list.
The Sierra snowpack, where California gets about a third of its water, was 88 percent below average as of Jan. 30. Some are concerned that the diminished snowmelt is causing more pumping of contaminated groundwater, particularly in disadvantaged areas such as California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Food Supply Threatened
California’s $45 billion agriculture business accounts for 15 percent of U.S. crop sales. But this year, farmers fear they may lose their entire crops. That could cause food prices to go up for most Americans. Some farmers are paying the expensive price of scarce water to irrigate crops. Others, unable to afford water, have been forced to leave fields fallow. Ranchers are struggling to feed livestock, as there is much less grass. Some have been paying more for alternative feed. Others have had to sell portions of their herd. In California’s vineyard capital, Napa Valley, wine grape growers said some vines are ripening early.