Tulare Basin in California, which is located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, has long been seen as a prosperous place to grow crops.
Recently, months of river storms have hit the area hard and saturated the basin’s soil. The storms have caused floods which have caused damage to towns and overwhelmed farms by causing floods that have actually started to refill the lake.
The floods, which are expected to continue, have caused tension amongst property owners on how to deal with them.
Experts expect a slow-burning crisis to occur. The flooding, which follows a long-term drought, illustrates the erratic weather patterns in California, which alternate between too wet and too dry.
“This is a slowly unfolding natural disaster,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center of the Public Policy Institute of California. “There’s no way to handle it with the existing infrastructure.”
The re-forming Tulare Lake, which was drained for farming a century ago, could stay on the landscape for years, being problematic for farmers in a region that produces a significant proportion of the nation’s supply of almonds, pistachios, milk and fruit. The decisions taken could have an impact on what appears on the shelves of grocery stores.
Going back some time, Tulare Lake refilled in 1997 and 1983 during extremely wet seasons. The snowpack is larger this year than it was when.
“If we use 1983 as an example: They had more than 80,000 acres of land underwater. If it’s bigger than that, it could be as much as 100,000 acres underwater,” Mount said.
Tulare County ranked second in the country for agricultural market value, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The region produces almonds, oranges, pistachios, wine grapes, milk and cheese.
“This has a ripple effect on the nation’s food supply,” Mount said.
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