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The entire western half of the United States is facing an extremely painful megadrought that has been putting millions of acres of crops in a death grip, as irrigation water is being completely cut off for a multitude of farmers, resulting in a lost year for many of them. Extremely dry weather conditions are a total nightmare for millions of western producers and farm workers because, without water, there are simply no crops and without crops, their jobs are at risk. The timing of this crisis couldn’t be worse. After a ravaging wildfire season, scientists are warning that the next one could be even worse than last year due to the bone dry conditions. This megadrought has been gradually aggravating throughout several years, and if there were any hopes that things would get better in the future, at this point, they have been entirely crushed.
In a recent CBS News report, experts explained that this exceptionally dry weather started in 2000, hitting some parts of the Western U.S., and as years passed by, it has expanded across several states, becoming the second-worst drought in 1,200 years – catalyzed by a combination of a natural dry cycle and human-caused climate change. Over the past 20 years, the two worst periods of drought came in 2003 and 2013 – but what is unfolding right now seems to be the beginning stages of something even more dangerous, with scientists warning that the region is on the precipice of permanent drought.
And as we approach the summer dry season – with a very little chance of seeing conditions getting any better – the stage is set for another period of extremely dry weather, with yet another brutal fire season, and, on top of all that, several states are at risk of experiencing widespread water restrictions. Already, the California-Oregon border is seeing things going from horrible to catastrophic as irrigation water stopped flowing into the region. Producers were anticipating that they would be getting much less water this year, but now federal regulators have decided to completely shut off the water from a critical reservoir, affecting most local farmers. Officials also said they would not send any extra water to dying salmon downstream or to dozens of wildlife refuges that harbor millions of migrating birds each year, because “there simply is not enough water for everyone”.
In California, the nation’s biggest vegetable producer, the water crisis is causing a critical impact on Central Valley farms, forcing many farmers to make some heartbreaking decisions, such as choosing which crops they will have to destroy in order to save others. With asparagus crops completely gone, at least 50 to 60 farmworkers are out of a job next year. And the more crops are lost, the more jobs will be cut. In a year of continual shortages and explosive prices, the fact that this nightmarish megadrought is going to further contribute to our food supply chain woes signals that we’re getting closer to another steep national crisis.
Dust storms are becoming a regular event in those areas and, according to NASA, “Valley fever is a dangerous threat to human health – and cases are on the rise in the arid southwestern United States, as the wind from increasing dust storms can transport the fungal spores that cause the disease. Valley fever is caused by the Coccidioides fungus, which grows in dirt and fields and can cause fever, rash, and coughing”.
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that such extraordinarily dry conditions create an ideal environment for wildfires. In 2020, we had one of the most ravaging wildfire seasons in U.S. history. Only in California, almost 10,000 blazes and 4.25 million acres have burned, corresponding to more than 4% of the state’s territory, and damaging or destroying nearly 10,500 structures – and now similar scenes started to be witnessed in Los Angeles County. Local news are reporting that a massive fire is burning out of control in the exclusive Pacific Palisades area near Topanga Canyon. Los Angeles County authorities are investigating who or what might have set off a brush fire that forced the mandatory evacuation of roughly 1,000 people.
With so many things happening right now, it feels like the United States is under some sort of curse. Wherever we look we see emergencies and disasters erupting and every time it appears things couldn’t get any worse, somehow they do. Now, scientists are telling us that Dust Bowl conditions have returned and we’re about to face another very dry summer, whose devastating effects will likely trigger more chaos on our broken food supply chains while sparking a dangerous water crisis and ravaging our soil. So much pain seems to be coming for us and it will likely linger for longer than one could have ever expected.