drought

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a $1 billion hole in the state budget that has consequences for Oklahoma’s environment and natural resources. A controversial state question could pit farmer against farmer. The ground beneath Oklahoma is shaking — figuratively and literally in 2016 — and StateImpact is on it.

NOT IF, BUT WHEN: PREPARING FOR THE NEXT DROUGHT

 

Flooding December 26-28 caps off a year that saw the Illinois River damaged by extreme rainfall time after time as Oklahoma’s five-year drought gave way to a powerful El Niño that’s been bringing strong storm systems through the state since May 2015.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The biggest news out of the Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference Dec. 1-2 was Governor Mary Fallin’s announcement of a working group to find alternatives to injecting produced water from oil and gas drilling deep into the ground. The goal is to reduce earthquakes, but also save water. 

DROUGHT FORECAST

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Recent rains across Oklahoma, and the forecast for more in the coming week are easing drought conditions in much of the state.

State climatologist Gary McManus said Friday that he's optimistic the moisture will prevent the return of severe drought that plagued the state during much of the past five years, in addition to reducing the danger of wildfires and providing much needed moisture for farmers.

Farmer Joe Kelly in Altus says he's harvesting cotton while planting wheat and is more optimistic about his crops than he's been since 2010.

More than 21,000 people are out of work this year from California's drought, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. The majority are in agriculture. Those farmworkers lucky enough to have a job are often working harder for less money.

Leaning forward and crouching from the waist, Anastacio picks strawberries from plants about as tall as his knees. We're not using his last name because Anastacio and his family are undocumented.

While prolonged drought has strained California agriculture, most of the state's farms, it seems, aren't just surviving it: They are prospering.

The environment, though, that's another story. We'll get to that.

The giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America's treasures, but for the first time in Sequoia National Park's history, the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought.

On a hike last summer, a scientist noticed that the needles of the giant sequoias were browning and more sparse than usual. This finding got ecologists thinking: Did the drought cause this?

The drought in California has gone on so long, and is so severe, that it's beginning to change the way people are designing residential communities — in unexpected ways, and unexpected places.

Planning is under way, for instance, for one of the first eco-friendly communities in California's predominantly agricultural Central Valley.

The site is in the town of Reedley, 30 miles southeast of Fresno.

There were a number of factors that distinguished Reedley, says Curt Johansen, the San Francisco developer who's spearheading the project.

Water scarcity is driving California farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable, less-thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this truer than San Diego County, where water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Grapefruit trees shade the entrance to Triple B Ranches winery in northern San Diego County. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knick knacks.

Many California farmers are in a tight spot this summer, because their normal water supplies have dried up with the state's extreme drought. In the state's Central Valley, that's driving some farmers to get creative: They're looking at buying water from cities — not freshwater, but water that's already gone down the drain.

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