Friday, 14 February 2014

The New Dust Bowl: 'Epochal' Drought Hits California's Central Valley

The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir in San José,
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Washington is finally waking up to California's worst drought since the 16th century, but is it too little too late? Nick Allen reports

On the road into the small California farming community of Mendota the signs read “Stop – dust bowl!” and “Save Water” as farmers in orchards are busy bulldozing withered almond trees.

It didn’t used to be like this here. Until recently this town of 11,000 people was proudly known as the “Cantaloupe Capital of the World”. Of all the many local crops its melons were most prized. Mendota’s farmers have been growing them since the 1920s, when Greek immigrants arrived and found the soil was perfect. The lush fields used to provide 70 per cent of America’s cantaloupes.

But today Mendota is becoming known for another reason. It sits at ground zero in an unfolding, slow motion billion dollar disaster, what climatologists are calling an “epochal” drought. Analysis of the rings in ancient sequoia trees suggests the region is experiencing a lack of rain not seen since 1580, around the time Sir Francis Drake reached the California coast and claimed it for Elizabeth I. » | Nick Allen, Mendota, California | Friday, February 14, 2014