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
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before