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California Drought And The U.S. Food Supply

The drought emergency in California, and what it may mean for the nation’s food supply.

With the edge of Folsom Lake, Calif., more than 100 yards away, Gina, 8, left, and Sydney, 9, Gerety walk on rocks that are usually at the waters edge, Thursday Jan. 9, 2014. Gov. Jerry Brown said he would meet Thursday with his recently formed drought task force to determine if an emergency declaration is necessary as California faces a serious water shortage. Reservoirs in the state have dipped to historic lows after one of the driest calendar years on record. (AP)

With the edge of Folsom Lake, Calif., more than 100 yards away, Gina, 8, left, and Sydney, 9, Gerety walk on rocks that are usually at the waters edge, Thursday Jan. 9, 2014. Gov. Jerry Brown said he would meet Thursday with his recently formed drought task force to determine if an emergency declaration is necessary as California faces a serious water shortage. Reservoirs in the state have dipped to historic lows after one of the driest calendar years on record. (AP)

They are praying for rain in California.  And facing drought.  A drought emergency, Governor Jerry Brown declared last week.  Worst in years.  Winter weather so warm you’ve got a confused bear wandering through skiers on the slopes last week.  So dry that farmers are thinning herds and letting fields go fallow.  Wondering which crops to lose.  Up in the Sierra Nevada, only 20 percent of the normal snow pack.  Less to melt, less to drink.  It’s just dry.  This hour On Point:  fire, food, climate and the drought emergency in California.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Bettina Boxall, water and environmental issues reporter for The Los Angeles Times. (@boxall)

Jeanie Jones, deputy drought manager and interstate resources manager for the California Department of Water Resources.

Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program at the Pacific Institute. Co-author of “The World’s Water,” “A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy” and “The Water-Energy Nexus In the American West.”

Daniel A. Sumner, director at the University of California Agricultural Issues Center and Frank H. Buck, Jr. Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis.

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: California declares drought emergency — “Brown’s drought proclamation follows California’s driest year on record and comes amid dropping reservoir levels and no sign of relief in the near future. Some Northern California communities dependent on shrinking local supplies have already imposed rationing and others are asking residents to eliminate outdoor watering. Many Central Valley irrigation districts are warning growers to expect severe delivery cuts this spring and summer.”

Significant Figures: What Californians Can Expect from the Drought – “It is not too late for some big storms off the Pacific Ocean to bring relief. But the odds are against it andcurrent meteorological conditions are not encouraging. If the rest of the winter months are dry, or even of average wetness, the state will have much less water than normal, and much less than water users want – from cities to farms to our natural ecosystems.”

TIME: Hundred Years of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse — “Californians need to be ready, because if some scientists are right, this drought could be worse than anything the state has experienced in centuries. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at rings of old trees in the state, which helps scientists gauge precipitation levels going back hundreds of years. (Wide tree rings indicate years of substantial growth and therefore healthy rainfall, while narrow rings indicate years of little growth and very dry weather.) She believes that California hasn’t been this dry since 1580, around the time the English privateer Sir Francis Drake first visited the state’s coast.”

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