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California farms are sucking up enough groundwater to put Rhode Island 17 feet under

california-drought-irrigation-pipe.jpg
Eddie J. Rodriquez

California, the producer of nearly half of the nation's fruits, veggies, and nuts, plus export crops -- four-fifths of the world's almonds, for example -- is entering its third driest year on record. Nearly 80 percent of the state is experiencing "extreme" or "exceptional" drought. In addition to affecting agricultural production the drought will cost the state billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and a whole lot of groundwater, according to a new report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture by scientists at UC-Davis. The authors used current water data, agricultural models, satellite data, and other methods to predict the economic and environmental toll of the drought through 2016.

Here are four key takeaways:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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It takes HOW much water to make Greek yogurt?!

greek yogurt
anali02170

California is experiencing one of its driest years in the past half millennium. It also happens to also be the country's leading dairy supplier. With profits surpassing $7 billion in 2012, the California dairy industry is far and away the most valuable sector of the state's enormous agricultural bounty. Unfortunately, as the chart below shows, dairy products use a whole lot of water.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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It takes how much water to grow an almond?!

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

California, supplier of nearly half of all U.S. fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state's "developed water," or water that's moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts.

As the maps above show, much of California's agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. For example: Monterey County, which is currently enduring an "exceptional drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, grew nearly half of America's lettuce and broccoli in 2012.

When it comes to water use, not all plants are created equal. Here's how much water some of California's major crops require:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Beyond a reasonable drought: California’s dry spell could be the worst in 500 years

Drought-afflicted cornfield
Shutterstock

The Golden State is in the midst of a three-year drought -- and scientists believe that this year may end up being the driest in the last half millennium, according to University of California-Berkeley professor B. Lynn Ingram. Californians are scared, with good reason: Fire danger in the state is high, and drinking-water supplies are low.

But the drought will have repercussions outside the state's borders, as well. California produces a good chunk of the nation's food: half of all our fruits and vegetables, along with a significant amount of dairy and wine.

So how will this historically dry period affect Californians -- and the rest of us? Here are a few important facts to keep in mind:

Read more: Climate & Energy