Schwarzenegger declares California drought state of emergency

Federal water managers plan to temporarily cut off water this March to thousands of California farms. The state has said it probably would deliver just 15 percent of the water contractors have requested this year.

The state delivers water to more than 25 million Californians and more than 750,000 acres of farmland.

“It’s too late,” he said. “It’s going to sound horrible coming from a farmer because you never turn down help, but come on, this thing is over with.”



Layers of sun-baked earth are exposed in an area of the San Luis Reservoir near Gustine that was previously underwater but was dried out in January because of drought conditions. (Patrick Tehan / Mercury News)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday because of three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 percent.

“This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment, making today’s action absolutely necessary,” the Republican governor said in his statement.

Mandatory rationing is an option if the declaration and other measures are insufficient.

The drought has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and led to conservation measures in cities throughout the state, which is the nation’s top agricultural producer.

Agriculture losses could reach $2.8 billion this year and cost 95,000 jobs, said Lester Snow, the state water director.

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Drought to cut off federal water to California farms

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal water managers said Friday that they plan to cut off water, at least temporarily, to thousands of California farms as a result of the deepening drought gripping the state.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said parched reservoirs and patchy rainfall this year were forcing them to completely stop surface water deliveries for at least a three-week period beginning March 1. Authorities said they haven’t had to take such a drastic move for more than 15 years.

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California faces grimmest water situation ever

Drought causes the state’s agriculture industry to disappear while residents continue to consume water at high levels


Sprinklers water wheat crops in Bakersfield, California. The state is facing a severe water crisis. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation almond grower in California’s Central Valley, expects that many of his trees won’t make it through the year. “It’s one of the grimmest water situations we’ve ever faced,” he said. “It’s an absolute emergency and anything to get water flowing quickly is needed.”

The 400-mile Central Valley is many things: the world’s largest agricultural area; the “salad bowl”, where half of the country’s vegetables are grown. But this year, with water shortages of a severity not seen for decades, many farmers and others are echoing the recent words of energy secretary Steven Chu: if current weather patterns continue, Californian agriculture could disappear.

John “Dusty” Giacone, another fourth-generation Central Valley farmer, was forced to abandon his vegetable crop and divert his scarce water to save his 4,000 hectares of almond trees.

Related article: Obama’s energy secretary outlines dire climate change scenario (Guardian)

“Taking water from a farmer is like taking a pipe from a plumber,” Giacone told the Associated Press. “How do you conduct business?”

But many farmers are choosing the opposite course, abandoning their almond trees for a season in the hope that the good times, and a wetter than normal spring, might return. In the meantime, the trees are being left to die, or maintained just enough to survive.

The decline in the number of almond trees has led to an unintended consequence: a glut of bee colonies. Bees are used to pollinate almond trees, and beekeepers now face the prospect of an economic collapse as the almond market withers away.

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Severe drought threatens Chinese wheat crop

Low rainfall in the north has put nearly half of the country’s harvest at risk

A severe drought in northern China – considered the country’s breadbasket – has hit almost 43% of the country’s wheat crop this winter, senior officials have warned.

Low rainfall since October has affected more than 9.3m hectares (229.71 acres) of land in northern China across six major grain-producing provinces, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. Last week it warned that 3.7 million people and 1.85 million livestock had lost access to drinking water.

Vice-premier Hui Liangyu has urged local officials to make tackling the water shortage a priority, state media reported today. Beijing has set aside 100m yuan (£10m) of funding to help farmers combat the problem and have sent specialist teams to the worst affected areas. Provincial governments are planning to seed clouds to ensure it rains.

Henan Daily reported that the drought is the province’s most severe since 1951, with no rain for 105 days. It warned that up to 63% of the region’s wheat crop is threatened.

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Liberia declares state of emergency as caterpillar plague wrecks crops

Insect invasion is worst in the African country in 30 years

Liberia has declared a state of emergency over a plague of caterpillars that has destroyed plants and crops and contaminated water supplies, threatening an already fragile food situation.

Tens of millions of marching caterpillars have invaded at least 80 towns and villages in central and northern Liberia, preventing some farmers from reaching their fields and causing others to flee their homes. The inch-long pests – the caterpillar life stage of the noctuid moth – have spread to neighbouring Guinea and are threatening Sierra Leone, which has set up monitoring teams along its border.

Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said in a televised speech on Monday night that the country’s worst plague of caterpillars in three decades had “the potential to set back our progress in the production of food and export crops”.

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World warned of ‘food crunch’ threat

The world faces “the real risk of a food crunch” if governments do not take immediate action to address the agricultural impact of climate change and water scarcity, according to an authoritative report out on Monday.

Chatham House, the London-based think-tank, suggests that the recent fall in food prices is only a temporary reprieve and that prices are set to resume their upward trend once the world emerges from the current downturn.

“There is therefore a real risk of a ‘food crunch’ at some point in the future, which would fall particularly hard on import-dependent countries and on poor people everywhere,” the report states. “Food prices are poised to rise again,” it adds.

The warning is made as agriculture ministers and United Nations officials gather from Monday in Madrid for a UN meeting on food security likely to conclude that last year’s food crisis, with almost 1bn people hungry, is far from over.

The UN will warn ministers in Madrid that “as the global financial crisis deepens, hunger is likely to increase” under the impact of rising unemployment and lower remittances, according to three officials briefed ahead of the meeting.

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Ecologists warn the planet is running short of water

A swelling global population, changing diets and mankind’s expanding “water footprint” could be bringing an end to the era of cheap water.

The warnings, in an annual report by the Pacific Institute in California, come as ecologists have begun adopting the term “peak ecological water” – the point where, like the concept of “peak oil”, the world has to confront a natural limit on something once considered virtually infinite.

The world is in danger of running out of “sustainably managed water”, according to Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute and a leading authority on global freshwater resources.

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Dry South Australia buys in water

The dry bed of the Hume Weir, Murray-Darling basin Australia is facing its worst drought in a century

Australia’s driest state has decided to buy in water supplies amid fears it will run out next year.

South Australia said it had spent tens of millions of dollars to ensure Adelaide, Australia’s fifth-largest city, and the state had enough water.

State Premier Mike Rann described it as a “prudent and sensible” measure.

Drought has become a regular occurrence in South Australia, which already receives the least rainfall of any Australian state.

Lack of rainfall and a sharp reduction in the amount of water flowing into the Murray River meant the state could not guarantee water levels for 2009.

The state’s water security minister, Karlene Maywald, said she had purchased 61 billion gallons (231 gigalitres) of extra water for 2009.

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California to cut water deliveries to cities, farms

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California said Thursday that it plans to cut water deliveries to their second-lowest level ever next year, raising the prospect of rationing for cities and less planting by farmers.

The Department of Water Resources projects that it will deliver just 15 percent of the amount that local water agencies throughout California request every year.

Since the first State Water Project deliveries were made in 1962, the only time less water was promised was in 1993, but heavy precipitation that year ultimately allowed agencies to receive their full requests.

The reservoirs that are most crucial to the state’s water delivery system are at their lowest levels since 1977, after two years of dry weather and court-ordered restrictions on water pumping out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This year, water agencies received just 35 percent of the water they requested.

Farmers in the Central Valley say they’ll be forced to fallow fields, while cities from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego might have to require residents to ration water.

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World is facing a natural resources crisis worse than financial crunch

• Two planets need by 2030 at this rate, warns report
• Humans using 30% more resources than sustainable

The world is heading for an “ecological credit crunch” far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.

The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. As a result, we are running up an ecological debt of $4tr (£2.5tr) to $4.5tr every year – double the estimated losses made by the world’s financial institutions as a result of the credit crisis – say the report’s authors, led by the conservation group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund. The figure is based on a UN report which calculated the economic value of services provided by ecosystems destroyed annually, such as diminished rainfall for crops or reduced flood protection.

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