Water Shortage In The Central Valley

March 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Here in the Central Valley there's too little water and it's drying up farms.Last year, 100,000 acres of farm land went unplanted. This year, it's up to 750,000 acres. It's costing farmers $1.5 billion dollars in lost income, and it's costing the state 40,000 lost jobs.

In just a glance, you know something is very wrong.

A quarter of the nations fruits and vegetables are grown here in California's Central Valley, but the farmers here have been hit with two crises at the same time: they're in their third year of severe drought and now, they must also cope with the worst recession in a generation, that has driven unemployment to staggering levels 35 percent in some places. Numbers that compare to the great depression. And for the first time ever, farmers may be completely cut off from one of their sources of water

Farmers don't have access to this water that runs right through the center of their farmland. It is being allocated to the Delta Smelt, a little fish, protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Conservationists said the smelt are dying in the irrigation pumps, so a judge ruled they must be shut off for much of the growing season. That hits almond farmers like Shawn Coburn particularly hard. 90 percent of the nation's almonds come from this valley, and almond trees need a lot of water

Shawn Coburn an almond farmer said, "If you have a crop that needs water year in and year out, it either dies or you try to find a way to keep it alive."

So Coburn is spending $600,000 dollars to dig a new well and, he hopes, to buy himself some time

Jose Ramirez the Firebaugh City Manager said, "All our people want here is a job, that's all we want. You let the water flow, food will grow, and jobs will flow after that and we're in business."

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