Parched California: Hurry up, El Niño

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click image to zoomDrought Monitor reportThe Drought Monitor map released on Feb. 21, 2014. Adios, La Nada; hola, El Niño!  

As California sinks further into drought, farmers and ranchers across the state are ready to see some relief. With El Niño forecast to appear sometime this summer, relief may soon be on its way.  

According to Reuters, scientists are still debating the intensity of the potential El Niño. And while it could mean drought for Asia and Australia, the United States could reap some-needed benefits — much-needed rain to drought-hit California.  

"El Niño has a bad connotation, undeservedly so in the U.S.," said Harry Hillaker, state climatologist in Iowa. "Given the water supply issues they are having in California, more rain would be helpful."

Unfortunately for the parched state, relief can’t come soon enough.

In the latest “Drought Monitor” report, more than two-thirds of the state is in extreme or worse drought, up 8 percentage points from last week’s report.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a drought emergency in mid-January. Earlier this week, he proposed a $687 million aid package to help California get through its water crisis while preparing for the next, according to the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.

The legislation calls for speeding up water conservation and clean drinking-water project approvals while offering relief to out-of-work farmers. Towns and cities running out of water could also have access to $15 million in emergency funds.

"The best way to make our communities more resilient to drought is to invest in projects that help us get the most out of every drop of water," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who will carry the legislation. "We're not waiving environmental laws. We're not hiking taxes or fees. We're using money we have available now to save time, save water and help Californians hardest hit by the drought."

Read more here.

Last week, President Barack Obama visited the state to pledge to speed federal assistance to help the state recover from drought, including $100 million in aid to help California farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock due to drought conditions. However, farmers believe Obama’s drought relief misses the mark.

"Throwing money at it is not going to solve the problem long-term," Sarah Woolf, a partner with Clark Brothers Farming told the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reports in an article here that officials plan to announce how much water they will release this year through its vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs, but farmers, especially those in Central Valley, expect little. Last year, the driest year in California history, some farmers received 20 percent of normal. This year that figure could hit zero. 

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R Ems    
CO  |  February, 22, 2014 at 10:51 AM

The price of food will go up. Farmers will have to take a year off. Unemployment will go up. The environmentalists have completely screwed up that state. At least the snail darters will be happy.

william church    
usa  |  February, 23, 2014 at 09:08 AM

Though the article is technically correct there are many many questions. Even if an El Nino appears which is forecasted for later in 2014 there is the possibility of the high pressure mountain that has been sitting off your coast for 14 months to reappear also. This will force the water to the north and down over the other parts of USA. No one knows why the high pressure mountain appeared. Cause or anything? It could be water temperature or a pollution reaction from Asia--honestly no one knows. If environmental, then it will most likely appear since California has the highest level of air pollution in the nation and the wildfires of this coming summer will produce new weather patterns.

SD  |  February, 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

More damaging and frightening even than the cycles of nature involved here is the typically blind government/envirofreako decision to hold the water in Northern CA to protect a PERCEIVED endangered tiny minnow type fish! Further damaging to the ability of the USA to provide our own food is the political machinations of our President on his current or recent tour and work at new trade treaties with Mexico and Asian nations. Tearing out years of work establishing almond and other orchards in CA seems a wasteful decision, though it may be the only possible choice for those who have to pay the bills, the local farmer. Maybe 'we, the people' need to be looking deeper into where our food is produced, and make some decisions as to who can and will do the best job to produce the safest, most healthful food at the most reasonable costs. Hint: it just may be those of us who are being manipulated out of business by those who champion a bizarre form of 'ecology' which doesn't allow for individuals to make decisions based on what we can afford to pay to raise food for the masses at prices they are willing to pay. Hint 2: low cost food in the USA has allowed the majority of even low income US citizens (and illegal aliens living here!!!) to own luxuries and enjoy a lifestyle the envy of most of the rest of the world.

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