Faced with a severe drought, California enacted mandatory water conservation rules in early April for the first time in the state’s history. But the agriculture industry — which consumes 80 percent of the state’s water — was exempt from the new restrictions.
The drought has caused surface water sources such as reservoirs, rivers, and streams to dry up. Consumers have increasingly turned to groundwater supplies, putting an enormous strain on the state’s aquifers. Drilling companies are punching so many holes in the ground that the number of requests for new wells in one recent week surpassed the entire total for some previous years, when water was plentiful.
VICE News went to California to witness the proliferation of water-intensive crops, and to find out why the industry that consumes the overwhelming majority of the state’s water has continued to operate during the historic drought.
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