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California Drought Impact Seen Spreading From Fires to Food Cost

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our California News page.

The drought that's gripping California may soon have the rest of the country seeking relief.

The emergency, which follows the state's driest year on record, is likely to boost the prices of everything from broccoli to cauliflower nationwide. Farmers and truckers stand to lose billions in revenue, weakening an already fragile recovery in the nation's most-populous state. And California and other Western states are seeing a surge in wildfires.

As lawmakers rush to enact measures to help farmers and ranchers contend with the immediate threat to the nation's most productive agricultural region, the prolonged dry spell is sparking calls for a radical rethinking of how the state, and much of the West, distributes water to residents.

"We are at that point the risks for the future are really significant," said Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research organization. "We have to fundamentally change the way we manage water."

The drought is a stark reminder that California built the world's 10th-largest economy, the nation's top farming industry, and Silicon Valley, the epicenter of information technology, in a semi-arid environment that's struggling to sustain the water needs of 38 million people.

While rain doused San Francisco yesterday and more rain and snow are forecast in Northern California through the weekend, 17 rural communities are in danger of running out of water in as little as two months. Farmers may be forced to prune almond trees back by 90 percent, affecting yields for years.       
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