All the lawns are brown: California's Catastrophic Drought
California’s Central Valley was once known as America's food basket providing vast supplies of fruit, vegetables and meat, but as these recent photographs show the devastating effects of the state’s worst drought in decades has played havoc on the region leaving much of it unfit for farming.
And it's not just farms in the region, as luxury homes and golf clubs have also been left with scorched earth where once there had been lush grass.
The most populous U.S. state is in its third year of what officials are calling a catastrophic drought, leading farmers to leave fallow nearly a half-million acres of land and leaving some small communities at risk of running out of drinking water.
Thousands of workers facing losing their jobs and farmers in the state are facing losses of $1.7 billion, according to recent economic study of what may be the state's driest year on record.
As many as 14,500 full time and seasonal jobs could be lost as a result of the drought, as farmers fallow land and there are fewer crops to plant and pick, according to the preliminary study.
Altogether, 410,000 acres may be left unplanted in the San Joaquin Valley alone, the analysis showed, as farmers enter the growing season with about two-thirds of the water that they need.
By comparison, a drought in 2009 led to the fallowing of 270,000 acres of cropland and the loss of 7,500 jobs, the study showed.
Most farmers in California rely on irrigation rather than rain, many purchasing supplies from federal and state projects that pump from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. But less water than normal is available from those sources this year.
Last week, Lake Mead dropped to the lowest levels since the reservoir was filled upon the completion of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.
The everlasting drought for the past 14 years has forced waters down more than 130 feet since a high-water mark was last reached in 2000.
As entire marinas run dry, the Bureau of Reclamation fears that an ongoing drought could force the agency to declare a shortage by 2017, which could ultimately affect the more than 40 million people that rely on Lake Mead for water.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited drought-stricken homeowners on Friday in Central California, saying drought and climate change would require major investment to secure future water supplies.
Vilsack also announced $9.7 million in new emergency drought aid to help rural Californians hurt by the state's three-year drought.
A drought monitor sponsored by the federal government says 81 percent of the state is experiencing major agricultural losses and widespread water shortages or restrictions.
All but one of the state's 58 counties are now federally designated disaster areas because of the drought, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans, according to the agriculture department.
California Gov. Jerry Brown also is pushing for heavy investment to secure state water service, including a proposed $15 billion to build giant tunnels to carry water from the San Francisco Bay Area to the state's water-thirsty south.
24 Jul 2014