tv America Tonight Al Jazeera April 5, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EDT
good evening, i'm michael oku, welcome to a special edition of "america tonight", and welcome to california, which feels a little like a disaster movie waiting to happen. this state is in a fourth year of stream drought. some experts are worried it could continue for generations. we decided the best way to cover the scory is to take a roadtrip. we travelled through countries, what we saw was stunning. images that may come from a town near you, nearly half of america is living in a drought condition. water is flowing in california, not everywhere. the central valley is pop u later by a string of small communities, dominated by agricultural business. 25% of vegetables grow here. of what happens to the people, when
the company towns run dry. five hours north of l.a. we enter the town to find out. we run into resident thelma williams. after the dogs settled down, we ask about the drought. >> in the 7 or 8 years. things you have to go through, like water on the stove, make sure the water crosses. there's a lot of things you have to do. you don't get up - you jumped to us. they have no water. when did you know that was happening. did you get a warning. >> open the tracking. that was it. as the drought got worse. the well water started shrimping. the almond orchard sucked up what was left. the reason that is green, and this is browning and decaying,
the farmers were able to drill further into the ground than she was. another almond farm is across the street. >> they are drilling to get the groundwater that you were dry. >> right. >> do you feel these guysers using your water. >> yes, they literally took it right away. i would be breaking over there if i hoped someone and took a glass for coffee. >> reporter: for decades groundwater is unregulated. it's a game of finders keepers. the finders are those with the biggest drills. they can take water out. that's how they lost the water. here, they are far from alone. >> we had the coopers, my uncle. bobby lee williams, aunt caroline, and a couple of people on my mum's block. it's a lot of people. >> would you say it's the majority of the town. >> water is the talk of the
town. how to pay for it, how to keep it. thelma buys water by the jug. >> how often do you do this? >> twice a day. there are five gallon bottles. those are the ones... >> i can see your car is filled with them. >> yes. >> you are doing this, every day, twice a day, so not only are you suffering by not having the water, you are forced to have a serious workout. >> yes. >> it's not just the welling that have gone dry, we drove out to the reservoir, and were stunned by what we saw, and what we didn't see. >> it's amazing this used to be a launch. everything that you look at that is its brown that used to be blue. it was covered with water. people tell me they should come to swim. it's amazing, this is a way in which the small town is changed by the drought. people hang out here, and it
tried up four years ago. >> in nearby town, we spot a farmer herding his coys. he tells us he had 60 more cows, but sold them when the water on his farm ran dry. >> for five months you didn't have water or money to trial a hole in the ground. >> he's been a farmer for more than 25 years. maybe not for much longer. if the doubt doesn't break, he'll have to find another bay to make a living. we finished the day driving through another down. we stop at the retro market, out. >> we moved to north carolina, because there's no work out there. >> there's no work, because there's no water. >> there's no water. >> he didn't know what he would be stepping in, he said it has
to be better than california because there's no water. >> not everyone can move, money people spent trying to survive. they are stuck, stuck in this parched valley. some are turning to catholic territories. here workers can hardly keep thele shells stocked. filled with enough food to feed a family of four. >> i see more individuals not making ends need. >> more and more families are asking for help. it's turning farmers into beggars. >> are you seeing people coming boxes. >> i received 555 boxes this month. it was out of those boxes, i got 200 more. >> less water means fewer jobs. fields are fallow, farms put up for sale. people losing their homes.
>> 25% of homeless population was affected by the draught. >> it's a rolling disaster, threatening town after down. we meet a long-time resident bank. >> i do not believe a year from now, that this street will be any cars at all driving down it. >> reporter: yes or no - do you ape tribute that to the drought? >> absolutely, we are have farm town, we got to have water. that's what people do, we are farm workers, everything is related to the farms, if the not. >> kathy gives us a tour. >> this land had corn. this has not been rented for about six years. that building just went out of business. >> reporter: it was hurting before the
drought hard times are in overdrive. >> reporter: for every store closed. >> yes. every block has a boarded up house or business. >> there has been buildings within 100 yards of me, boarded up or distrid. destroyed. it's desolate. >> when it seems it can't get worse. kathy takes us west to mendoza. it's a long struggle with poverty, and now is running out of water. >> drinking water has to be trucked in. at one time they had water here. there's places where they don't have water. >> at this farm labour camp, a couple tells us a family of 7 lives on two gallons a day. that's all they can afford since fields. >> when i walk around here, it
remind me of photographs of the dust bowl. >> yes, it does. i lived there as a teenager, there was literally no water. we are on the verge of becoming what i saw as a child. i think that's what frightens me so much. no one is understanding that we are in the middle of a desperate situation. how will the people move. they don't have the money, where will they go. >> last year california pledged 600 million to drought-stricken communities throughout the state. driving through a dozen communities, you realise help can't come fast enough. >> these towns are not dying, some are sinking into the earth. the unregulated and unsustainable drilling of groundwater made the land collapse. we leave the central valley, with a feeling people are waiting. waiting for help from above
next stop, where the tries are tying and the lakes are sandpits. apocalyptic images from "america tonight"s >> you and i, we're going to change this country, and we will change the world. >> mr. president, there's a one in three chance of a second grade depression. >> first hand accounts from the people who are there. >> your opinion was shocking. >> ...that i am president of the united states and i can't make anything happen. >> he stood up and said, "that's it, i'm finished."
our drive takes us through the sierra nevada. we find a community that could go up in flames. only problem, they are running out of water. we are off-roading it, from a mountain climb to 4400 feet. and what a 4-year drought does to a forest. it is not pretty. >> i'm standing at an epicentre. this is the geographic center of the state. this is a major disaster. nowhere is it worse than right here. this is the scorn
sierra nevada. prone to fires, and home to 10 million dead trees and counting. >> the drought caused a lot of trees to die from drought. we countered that with some of the beetles that are attacking the pine. would you consider this a natural disaster. we are looking at losing 50% of our trees and certain species, it's a slow motion disaster. this boundary is pure gasoline for fires. the assistant chief has never seen anything like this before. >> what we are experiencing now is not normal, they are well outside the normal. this is the new normal. the day we meet him. he's having 14 trees on the property cut down.
my wife and i figured out in the last four years. there are 80 trees on the property. half were cut down. marshall is lucky. they had a grant to pay for the clinics. they can cost home fire, dropping a tree, thousands of dead trees are standing, like colossal match sticks. there is a local irony, residents for the trees, those that can't or won't sell are hanging on. >> where do we go from here. if this gets worse. this is going on all over the sierras. defending your home is one thing. a town running out of water. it's another. this pond is dry. the ones next to it is empty.
crippling the response time. what shocked it is what we found an hour away. it was quite a site. >> i'm standing on the bottom of lake mcclure, what is left of it. what is left of it is dust. mud, debris that was long forgotten, and plant life that was making a home between cracks at the bottom. it's a moonscape extending for miles and miles. four years ago. the lake was filled to the rim. all the way to the treeline. it dries up. eliminating a source of water for the firefighters. 30 minutes away, this is what greets you when you arrive at lake don paid roe. low and dropping by the day. friday. >> how much would you say? >> at least about a foot.
jimmy thought it was a foot and a half. >> looks like it to my. >> i was born and raised here. never seen it like this before. >> at nearby la grange. we stopped for a game of pool, and learnt that residents can only count on about two weeks of water before the taps run dry. the resident is worried about how they'll take care of her family and defend her home from fire. >> you actually discussed the possibility of moving. >> yes. >> it's that bad. >> it's pretty bad, yes. >> others discuss it. >> if you drive around the neighbourhood. there's a bunch of for sale signs. >> jessica could drill a well. >> they don't promise that you'll find water. you dig the first hole. you have to go deeper. >> are you at that point where you have to dig a well? >> we are getting close to it.
>> driving through the old gold rush country we are startled by how dry everything is. by the fields, mountains and into the towns. you can't help but fear that if the drought doesn't destroy this, a wildfire will. a lot of people that moved up now want to move away. they can't afford to drill the house or drill a well. changed. >> the route back is 40 miles en route 49. one of the first cold rush towns. folks know they are up against mother nature. you get the sense they will not go down without a fight. they admit they have never seen a drought like this. when we come back, a strange forgotten place that might
a 3-hour drive south-east. to a remote part of the desert. >> we are off the i 5. it's 102 degrees. and probably hasn't settled. we are heading towards the sea. it's the largest lake in the state of california, and it's drying up. the fallout from that disastrous. >> approach the lake from a distance, and it's deceptively beautiful. coast ard perfect. not up close. >> the smell. when you get to the beach, it's clear what that foul odour is all about. it's dead fish. within about 10 feet of me, there's literally dozens of them. if you look along the beech, there were hundreds.
if not thousands of cubing cueses. if you have a look, it's a combination of sand and body parts. the mountains in the distance. the community has abandoned sections of it. the whole area i'm standing on used to be underwater. now in is all that is left. today the sultan sea is a forgotten police, no one in site for miles. once there were prime properties. today just desolation, and an erie silence. >> we head out to meet some of the people that live around what is left of the sultan sea. this is the oldest bar in town.
the ironically named ski inn. >> this was the bar and restaurant wendell and his friends, the lake was the rivera in the '50s, and '60s, back when you could catch it: residents have not caught a big fish for a long time. the see is shrinking. scientists say it's an ecological time bomb. increased health costs could reach as high as 70 million over the next 30 years, according to a pacific interview report. >> they call this the accidental sea formed in 1905, when the
colorado river breached a dyke and spent the next two years. rain fall and salty run-off from farms kept the lake filled. water levels dropped. as part of a legal agreement, since 2003, they have been transferring part of the water. the salty sea is a victim of the messy water wounds. >> the bottom line is san diego, as a result of the drought. they needed more water. they got the water from the district up here. they pay for that water. they pay for the conservation measures. the governor tapped ecologist bruce to figure out a way to save the sea. a major concern, all the dust exposed as the water recedes. this is an agricultural area,
most of the run off has some level of pest asides. they settle into the bottom of the lake bed. as it picks up in the dust. all the minerals and contaminants goes into the strain, into people's lungs. the dry lake bed could generate 100 tonnes of dust. exposing millions of people. 30 miles south in the farming town. we meet a mother who believe the dust is making the kids sick. >> the children 2-year-old alberta and jissel, nine, have asthma. mornings always start like this.
they have to take it into the hospital. at least in the hospital five times a year. >> wow. >> every four hours. i have the mission. >> every four hours. >> officials at the school tell us more and more kids are getting asthma, and warn the problem is worse. a border town 15 minutes away. here the school district has resorted to flying flags to signal good and bad quality days. we see them as they dry up. today is a good day. everyone we talk about suffers from asthma. >> i do not have asthma. i return, and i got asthma. >> do you have kids. >> two of the three kids. it's a lot of asthma. >> in fact, they have the highest rate of people with respiratory diseases in california.
they are, in a way, another kind of casualty of the drought. >> how did we get to that point. >> by assuming that the water is running out. we meet up with environmental journalist. 10 years ago, the water was three feet deep. he's worried about more than the sand, wind and dead fish in the sea, and says as the drought continues and the day is hotter few can pick crops. how will that impact the imperial valley, one of the nation's major agricultural areas. people will work on the forms. they are used to heat. they are not working on the farm. they are motivated. there's a point in which a person can't take heat, and it's going to change the way we do things here.
>> the sultan sea may be the canary in a coal mine. the drought is the new normal. here we can see where a lot of state might be. in 70 years. not all salt pans, with dead fish on them. it's the advance guard for the rest of california. the drought makes itself felt first. behind. >> those days are over. >> california can be a great place to live. we have to get used to not wasting water. >> thanks for joining us, for this special edition of "america tonight".
♪ political fallout. >> it was the prime minister's idea to resign. i will meet him later today to discuss it. >> the prime minister of iceland is forced to resign, the first victim of the panama papers skavenlingdz. >> pivotom primary, ted cruz and bernie sanders hope to shake up their respective races with wins in wisconsin. cease-fire agreement.