As California sinks further into drought, farmers and ranchers across the state are ready to see some relief. With El Niño forecast to appear sometime this summer, relief may soon be on its way.
According to Reuters, scientists are still debating the intensity of the potential El Niño. And while it could mean drought for Asia and Australia, the United States could reap some-needed benefits — much-needed rain to drought-hit California.
"El Niño has a bad connotation, undeservedly so in the U.S.," said Harry Hillaker, state climatologist in Iowa. "Given the water supply issues they are having in California, more rain would be helpful."
Unfortunately for the parched state, relief can’t come soon enough.
In the latest “Drought Monitor” report, more than two-thirds of the state is in extreme or worse drought, up 8 percentage points from last week’s report.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued a drought emergency in mid-January. Earlier this week, he proposed a $687 million aid package to help California get through its water crisis while preparing for the next, according to the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.
The legislation calls for speeding up water conservation and clean drinking-water project approvals while offering relief to out-of-work farmers. Towns and cities running out of water could also have access to $15 million in emergency funds.
"The best way to make our communities more resilient to drought is to invest in projects that help us get the most out of every drop of water," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who will carry the legislation. "We're not waiving environmental laws. We're not hiking taxes or fees. We're using money we have available now to save time, save water and help Californians hardest hit by the drought."
Last week, President Barack Obama visited the state to pledge to speed federal assistance to help the state recover from drought, including $100 million in aid to help California farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock due to drought conditions. However, farmers believe Obama’s drought relief misses the mark.
"Throwing money at it is not going to solve the problem long-term," Sarah Woolf, a partner with Clark Brothers Farming told the Associated Press.
The Associated Press reports in an article here that officials plan to announce how much water they will release this year through its vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs, but farmers, especially those in Central Valley, expect little. Last year, the driest year in California history, some farmers received 20 percent of normal. This year that figure could hit zero.