California will suspend water allocations due to drought

The drought in California has reached crisis proportions and worries are growing that at least 17 cities and towns will run out of water in less than 100 days unless extreme preservation measures are taken.

CBS Sacramento:

The harsh weather leaves us little choice," said DWR Director Mark Cowin. "If we are to have any hope of coping with continued dry weather and balancing multiple needs, we must act now to preserve what water remains in our reservoirs."

Aside from water carried over from 2013, State Water Project customers will get no deliveries in 2014 if the same conditions persist. Also, agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut by 50 percent, depending on the outcome of future snow surveys.

"It is our duty to give State Water Project customers a realistic understanding of how much water they will receive from the Project," said Director Cowin. "Simply put, there's not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project."

The state's largest reservoirs, Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta, are only at 36 percent capacity. With 750,000 acres of farmland partially depending on reservoirs like these, it is going to be one of the toughest years on record for agriculture.

With water scarce, it is surely going to set up a battle between farms, cities and wildlife.

"We've got to thread the needle on this, find a way to meet our water needs without it coming at the complete expense of our natural environment," said wildlife advocate Eric Wesselman with Friends of the River.

DWR is holding back water flows for now to make sure the Delta isn't threatened by what's known as saltwater intrusion. Too much ocean water and species would quickly die off, and drinking water would be threatened.

The drought is affecting some of the most productive farm land in the world. If crop yields go down significantly, it could affect food prices at the grocery store. We're already experiencing rising costs for beef because of a near record low number of cattle. Another hit from escalating fresh produce prices would make us all a little poorer.

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