California to cut water for farmers amid major drought

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The US state is restricting water use for agriculture because of a devastating four-year drought, despite fears that the move could threaten the country’s food production.

The State Water Resources Control Board has announced that senior water right holders in California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds won’t be allowed to pump water for agricultural use anymore, because of the drought.

According to the state’s water law, those holding water rights dating back to 1903 or later will be the first to see their water use limited.

Senior water right holders with priority dates earlier than 1903 in the affected watersheds can continue to divert water in accordance with their water right. In addition, those who have previously stored water under a valid right may continue to hold that water or release it for beneficial use”, the State Water Board explained.

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    Farmers who fail to comply with the order may face prosecution in court or be fined $2,500. In January, already 90% of California was suffering from the drought and governor Jerry Brown called on people to reduce their water use. However, as predicted by scientists, the situation worsened as summer months approached.

    There are now fears that the water cuts might threaten food supplies, as California is the largest agricultural state in the US.

    Climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have been linked to an increase of devastating droughts. Last year, researchers from Stanford University found that higher emissions play a role in exacerbating droughts. Another recent study by NASA also suggested that if the world fails to limit emissions, the risk of mega-droughts lasting decades would rise to 80% between 2050 and 2099 – compared to the current 12%.

    Photo: Jonathan Lidbeck via flickr

     

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    Further reading:

    80% of California in ‘extreme drought’, scientists warn

    Climate change worsening California drought

    How does climate change affect the strength and frequency of floods, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes?

    Scientists say climate change not to blame for 2012 US drought

    Climate change creating ‘water crisis’ in Australia