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Originally published August 14 2014

Mass migration away from California may begin due to extreme drought

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes, and for sure, California is undergoing some pretty desperate times as a historic drought both spreads and worsens across the state, causing some to consider moving perhaps millions of Californians out of the hardest hit areas.

As reported by CNBC, the state is suffering through its third year of drought. More than 58 percent of the state is currently in the condition of "exceptional drought," according to the U.S. government's latest "Drought Monitor" map.

That is a massive amount of drought-affected land; just a week earlier, only 36 percent of the state was listed that way -- still a large area, but growing larger very quickly. As further reported by CNBC:

Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells.

If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations.

Migration 'can't be taken off the table'

"Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought," Wilson said. "We may have to migrate people out of California."

She added that before such a drastic measure would be taken, every other option -- including the importation of water -- would most likely happen first. Still, she said, "migration can't be taken off the table."

The massive, long-lasting drought has already caused the state to deplete most of its surface water, seen as falling by one-third again in 2014. In fact, farmers in the state -- who produce the lion's share of the nation's food crops -- have turned to groundwater to keep them irrigated.

But now that is causing fears of depleting groundwater in the coming years, if usage of that resource continues, according to a report released in July [PDF].

"So far, groundwater has helped get crops to market and keep food prices in line," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, which released the report.

However, the report noted that the drought in California will cost the state $2.2 billion and toss more than 17,000 agriculture workers out of a job this year alone.

Damage is widespread and expensive

Additional key findings in the report include:

-- Direct costs to agriculture total around $1.5 billion, in terms of revenue losses ($1 billion) and additional costs to pump water ($500 million); this is a net revenue loss of about 3 percent of the state's agricultural total.

-- The total statewide economic cost of the drought this year alone is $2.2 billion.

-- The loss of 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture amounts to about 3. 8 percent of all farm-related unemployment.

-- Around 428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of all irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California due to the worsening drought.

-- Hardest hit is the Central Valley and, in particular, Tulare Basin, which is projected to lose about $810 million in revenue, or a 2.3 percent decline, in crop revenue; $203 million losses in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional water-pumping costs.

-- Agricultural production on the central coast and in Southern California will be much less affected by this year's drought; some 19,150 acres won't be planted, which amounts to about a $10 million loss in crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional water pumping costs.

"Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues," CNBC reported.

Sources: [PDF]

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