The western United States continues to suffer from a historic level of drought. Wade Crowfoot is the secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, and he spoke during the Western Food and Ag Issues Summit hosted by Agri-Pulse. He offered up a key example of just how bad the drought has been.
“We are facing a worsening regional drought across most of the American West that’s unprecedented in nature. I spent the first half an hour of my day with the Western Growers talking about the Colorado River Basin. The Colorado River Basin provides water to seven states and two countries. It’s been experiencing a drought or water shortage for over 20 years. Apparently, this is the driest 22-year period on record and possibly in 1200 years.”
Further shortages in precipitation in the western United States could be catastrophic for water needs.
“If we experience middling precipitation over the next couple of winters, we could hit dead pool in our two largest reservoirs on the lower Colorado, which are Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Dead pool meaning we wouldn’t be able to export any water to the southwest, which would be catastrophic, so this is an unprecedented challenge in the Colorado River Basin. Go further to the north. The two major river systems that we depend on for a lot of our water in California, the Sacramento River system and the San Joaquin River system, are in a very bad way.”
Farmers in central California are abandoning fields because there isn’t enough water available for new crops.
“Last winter, Lake Orville, our largest state-managed reservoir, experienced about 25 percent of the inflow into that reservoir that we expected. Lake Shasta, the federally operated reservoir, the largest reservoir in the state, had a horrible winter for precipitation, and we’re facing what may be the largest amount of fallowing in the Sacramento River Valley ever.”