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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid