Water Woes Hurting California's Farming Towns

California's Central Valley is one of the top agricultural sites in the world, but with low rainfall and cut-off irrigation supplies, farming towns and their citizens may face at least one tough year ahead.
February 25, 2009, 8am PST | Nate Berg
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"Across the valley, towns are already seeing some of the worst unemployment in the country, with rates three and four times the national average, as well as reported increases in all manner of social ills: drug use, excessive drinking and rises in hunger and domestic violence."

"With fewer checks to cash, even check-cashing businesses have failed, as have thrift stores, ice cream parlors and hardware shops. The state has put the 2008 drought losses at more than $300 million, and economists predict that this year's losses could swell past $2 billion, with as many as 80,000 jobs lost."

"The situation is particularly acute in towns along the valley's western side, where farmers learned on Friday that federal officials anticipate a "zero allocation" of water from the Central Valley Project, the huge New Deal system of canals and reservoirs that irrigates three million acres of farmland. If the estimate holds and springtime remains dry, it would be first time ever that farmers faced a season-long cutoff from federal waters."

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Published on Saturday, February 21, 2009 in The New York Times
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