How the drought is making us all poorer
The water crisis in southern California is forcing farmers to ration their crops and raising concern over the future of the nation’s dairy industry.ABC News has learned that the drought has been making it increasingly difficult for farmers to raise their crops in the West and is affecting the lives of tens of thousands of California residents.
“It’s really hurting us economically,” said Melissa A. Martinez, who manages a dairy farm in the Los Angeles area.
“I’m not sure we’re going to survive it.”
Drought conditions have caused farmers to use more water to irrigate crops.
And the problem is worsening.
The number of California drought-related deaths rose to 4,749 in September, the first time in a decade that the total number has surpassed 4 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In September, officials reported an additional 1,829 cases of waterborne illness and 6,837 deaths.
“That’s the first year I’ve ever seen a big increase in cases, so it’s really worrisome,” said Steve O’Connor, who is overseeing the agriculture department’s drought recovery efforts.
“We’re at risk of losing some of our crops in this drought.”
Farmers in southern and central California, where California farmers rely heavily on groundwater for irrigation, are struggling with drought conditions that are worsening.
Drought is hitting the dairy industry particularly hard.
In the San Joaquin Valley, more than 1 million acres of almond and pistachio trees were lost during the drought, the Agriculture Department reported.
In addition, almond growers are struggling to get water from underground aquifers that they rely on for irrigation.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry this week found that the number of almonds harvested per acre has dropped to just 4.5 pounds per acre in the past year.
“It’s a real problem,” said Maria A. Lopez, the executive director of the Central Valley Cooperative Extension.
“These are the crops that are our most valuable crop, so if they can’t sell, they’re going out of business.”
As the drought drags on, California has been dealing with water shortages.
A federal law requiring farmers to pump more water into their wells in order to meet growing demand has caused farmers in the drought-hit area to take drastic measures to save water.
The California Department of Water Resources said in a press release that farmers have started using a system called the “drought water reserve.”
In the last year, California is expected to have lost about 30 percent of its aquifered water supplies.
The reserve allows farmers to store water for use during times of extreme drought, such as during winter storms.
The drought is especially bad in northern California, which is experiencing severe snowfall.
“The snowpack has been incredibly low,” said Jeff Ritz, the chief water engineer for the California Department to Water.
“They are going to be dealing with that.”
Ritz said that farmers are going out into the fields to save their crops, but many of the farmers he’s spoken to are concerned about the potential for contamination.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Ritz said.
“What we have is an abundance of water that is going to have to be taken from the ground, from our aquifering systems, to be delivered back to the ground.”
Farm families in the Southern California drought are facing another threat to their livelihoods: the threat of bacterial disease.
Farmers are concerned that the growing number of superbugs is a harbinger of what’s to come in the future.
The U.K.-based research institute University College London and a coalition of scientists say that farmers may be entering a new era of antibiotic resistance in California.
Scientists say the growing use of antibiotics in agriculture has led to an increase in superbugs, and that this is likely to continue in the coming years.
The experts have compiled a report called “The Long-Term Impacts of Microbial Resistance on Agriculture,” which warns that resistance will be widespread and can be a major threat to the agricultural sector.
“There’s a lot of resistance to a lot more things now than we used to,” said Lisa P. O’Neill, a microbiologist with UC Berkeley.
“There’s bacteria that can grow in the soil and they can become resistant to antibiotics, which means they can make us sick.
It means they’re more able to survive.”
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says that resistance to antibiotics in humans and animals has doubled in the last 15 years, and the numbers of infections are on the rise.
In recent years, the U