News / USA

Obama Visit Highlights California’s Water Problems

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Feb. 14, 2014, en route to Fresno, California, to discuss the ongoing drought.
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Feb. 14, 2014, en route to Fresno, California, to discuss the ongoing drought.
Mike O'Sullivan
— Drought-stricken Californians are welcoming Friday's visit by President Barack Obama to their state, saying the president is drawing attention to ongoing water problems.  Farmers and scientists say the water shortage is caused by unusually dry weather, and is also a question of water management.

Water expert James Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine, says the drought is one of the worst in the state’s history.

“Whether you’re talking about snow or water storage in reservoirs or the water that’s stored in soils that we use in agriculture, they’re all at historic lows," said Famiglietti.

He says water levels are at some 20 percent of normal.  The drought is felt most acutely in California’s Central Valley, a 700-kilometer stretch of fertile plain that runs north to south.  The valley produces half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables and most of its nuts.

Ryan Jacobsen is a grape farmer and chief executive of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, a non-profit organization of local farmers.  Fresno County is the top-producing agricultural county in the United States, and is a key stop on the president’s visit.

“We grow everything - from processing tomatoes to garlic to wine, raisins, blueberries.  If you name it, we just about grow it here.  So it’s a very critical resource that it’s important to protect," said Jacobsen.

For farmers like Jacobsen, the water shortage is a natural disaster made worse by government.  He blames water pumping restrictions imposed to protect endangered fish in the Sacramento Delta, and cuts water supplies even in years of heavy rainfall, like 2011.

“Because of those pumping restrictions and the regulatory effects that we’ve had, it’s made a dramatic difference on what we’ve been able to store for a dry year like this.  So we went into this year with empty buckets," he said.

Water expert James Famiglietti says California, with its 38 million people, confronts a growing demand for water for all uses.  In addition, he says it faces the global challenge of climate change.

“So we all need to try to do a lot more with a lot less, and that includes conservation, that includes agricultural efficiency, that could include changing of pricing structure, and that could even include things like more recycling of sewage water," he said.

And it could include desalination to reclaim salty water.  

Famiglietti said that water use in the state requires thoughtful strategies and that when the rains return, California will still face a water shortage.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid