Barack Obama pledges millions in drought aid to California

The state is one of the world’s largest agricultural regions, with a $45bn farming industry that produces almost half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the US

Los Angeles

The Obama administration has announced a package of more than $200m (£120m)  in drought aid to California, to help farmers and others affected by the state’s driest spell since records began. Some scientists fear that  the so-called mega-drought  in this corner of the US  South-west could last as long as 200 years.

President Barack Obama touched down in Fresno, California, today to meet with farmers and witness the worst effects of the drought on the state’s densely agricultural San Joaquin Valley. The White House pledge includes some $150m for livestock farmers, $60m for food banks and another $5m to go towards water conservation projects.

California is one of the world’s largest agricultural regions, with a $45bn farming industry that produces almost half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the US. Agriculture uses around 80 per cent of the state’s water, and any severe water shortage could have a massive impact on the nation’s food supply.

In 2013, less rain fell on California than in any year since it became a state in 1850: just 7.48 inches (19 cm). The region’s rivers and reservoirs have sunk lower than ever before. Southern California’s water sources include the snowpack from the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is at 20 per cent of its normal average for this time of year.

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, urging residents to cut their own water use voluntarily by 20 per cent, and asking state agencies to hire more fire-fighters to combat an epidemic of wildfires. In January, the California Department of Forestry was called to more than 400 fires. The average number in the previous five January's was 69.

According to the California Department of Public Health, up to 17 of the state’s small rural communities could face severe water shortages in less than 100 days’ time. That’s a fate that may eventually await the region’s major cities and the industries they sustain: farming, film, technology.

Technically, a mega-drought is any drought that lasts longer than two decades. But scientists familiar with the long-term climate patterns of the region say California might have to prepare itself for far longer than 20 years without sufficient rain. The state’s infrastructure was largely designed in the 20th Century, when the region may have been abnormally damp.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'