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Standing on the grassy plateau where water is piped onto his property, Josh Davy wished his feet were wet and his irrigation ditch full. 

Three years ago, when he sank everything he had into 66 acres of irrigated pasture in Shasta County, Davy thought he’d drought-proofed his cattle operation.

He’d been banking on the Sacramento Valley’s water supply, which was guaranteed even during the deepest of droughts almost 60 years ago, when irrigation districts up and down the valley cut a deal with the federal government. Buying this land was his insurance against droughts expected to intensify with climate change. 

But this spring, for the first time ever, no water is flowing through his pipes and canals or those of his neighbors: The district won’t be delivering any water to Davy or any of its roughly 800 other customers.

Without rain for rangeland grass where his cows forage in the winter, or water to irrigate his pasture, he will probably have to sell at least half the cows he’s raised for breeding and sell all of his calves a season early. Davy expects to lose money this year — more than $120,000, he guesses, and if it happen... Read more

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