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California Farmers Will Not Receive Water From Government Amid Megadrought

© MENAHEM KAHANAAn aerial picture taken on July 11, 2021, shows the Jordan river flowing through the Beteha (Bethsaida Valley) into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias, one of the main water sources in Israel.
An aerial picture taken on July 11, 2021, shows the Jordan river flowing through the Beteha (Bethsaida Valley) into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias, one of the main water sources in Israel. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.02.2022
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On Wednesday, the federal government told California farmers it would not be giving them any water despite an unrelenting megadrought that has been ravaging the West for 22 years. This marks the fourth time in the past decade that California’s farmers have been denied water from the Central Valley Project.
Ernest Conant, the regional director for the US Bureau of Reclamation, admitted that the decision to allocate 0% of water towards farmers is devastating, but “unfortunately, we can’t make it rain,” he said.
California is responsible for a quarter of food in the U.S.
There are two major systems that California relies on for water. One is state-owned, the other is owned by the federal government. The Central Valley project is federally operated, and will not be providing water for those who farm south of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.
However, the federal government has allocated 25% of the available water for drinking and “industrial uses” for its cities and some parts of the Bay Area.
“Conditions are very dry. And as a result we have to be very cautious with these allocations,” Conant says. He points out that the months of January and February are on track for being the driest months the region has experienced on record thus far.
Last year, the Bureau of Reclamation had allocated 5% of water for agricultural purposes, and 55% for cities. Those numbers have since been cut to 0% and 25%, respectively, as the megadrought shows no sign of relief for the region. Conant warns that if it doesn’t rain this March, things will only get worse in terms of water resources.
The state of California is experiencing its worst megadrought in 1,200 years. A megadrought refers to a drought that lasts two decades or longer. California’s drought is in its 22nd year, surpassing the longest megadrought on record, which was in the late 1500s.
“These events have rarely been seen and were once considered a worst-case scenario in modern times,” said Park Williams, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Previous megadroughts were caused by random ocean conditions, like La Nina weather events in the tropical Pacific. But researchers say human-caused global warming is responsible for 42% of the current megadrought. Temperatures will only get worse as people continue to burn fossil fuels, according to climate scientists. The megadrought could last for as long as 30 years.
A 2021 study has shown that covering all 4,000 miles of California’s water canals with solar panels would prevent the evaporation of water, saving more than 65 billion gallons of water annually, with the added bonus of electrical energy supplied by the solar panels.
The Turlock Irrigation District (TID), which is a California-based utility company, is teaming up with the state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) to begin a project that will test this study in a state whose goal is to be decarbonized by the year 2030.
“Using water canals for solar infrastructure conserves water while producing renewable electricity and avoids converting large tracts of land to solar development,” says researcher Brandi McKuin.
“The cooler microclimate next to the canal mitigates panel heating, which enhances PV efficiency, and shade from the panels mitigates aquatic weed growth, which is a major maintenance issue,” McKuin added.
The only problem the project faces includes cost of solar infrastructure, the need to access the canals for maintenance, and the maintenance and delivery of the electricity.
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