One of the world's most productive agricultural regions, the enormous valley is reeling after the driest year in more than a century. But last week, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water to a third of the irrigated farmland in California through a 500-mile network of canals and tunnel, said it won't be able to deliver any of the water sought by farmers.
"It goes beyond devastation, you're going to see farms that have been in business 30 and 40 years, they do not have any water, they are out of business," said Dennis Falaschi, general manager of the Panoche Water District.
The drought, combined with continued protections for endangered species, has forced farmers to find alternatives. Most farmers have already switched to drip irrigation, which is much more efficient than the flood irrigation technique used when water was plentiful. But it still may not be enough, as farmers are now choosing which crops to water - and which to let wither.
Keith Nilmeier is one such farmer. But after a recent trip overseas, this 4th generation farmer took a gamble and has come up with a crop that is drought tolerant and could save the farming industry.
By the way - Did I mention Tuesday is April Fool's Day:)
STORY BACKROUND: I was working in Fresno at the time in the late 1980s during California's last big drought. The San Joaquin Valley as is the case this year, was hit hard at the time. We did so many stories on the drought, we decided to have a little fun. Despite the seriousness of the subject mater, farmers were happy with a little comic relief. (Yeah, I was a little thinner at the time too).