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California Gasping

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 18 May 2011

California has a rapidly expanding population, one of the world's most important agricultural zones and a chronic lack of water. That contradiction has led to 70 years of wrangling punctuated by outbursts of violence and corruption.

A new plan is being drawn up which is intended to resolve the outstanding problems once and for all, finding a balance between the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Travelling from one of the primary sources of the state's water in the far north to the threatened landscape of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Tom Heap hears the voices of those who've spent their lives in these stunning landscapes, feeling themselves at the mercy of those in power.

  • Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu

    Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu

    The building of the Shasta Dam in Northern California was part of the 1930s solution to the state's twin problems of summer drought and winter flood. The construction flooded most of the land inhabited by the Winnemem Wintu tribe. Caleen and the remaining members of the tribe are deeply concerned by plans to raise the height of the dam, potentially flooding even more of the tribal land.

    Winnemem Wintu
  • Caleen conducts a puberty ceremony with tribal head man Mark Franco

    Caleen conducts a puberty ceremony with tribal head man Mark Franco

    Winnemem Wintu photos courtesy of Marc Dadigan.

    Journalist-in-residence Marc Dadigan
  • Pear farmers Chuck and Joy Baker

    Pear farmers Chuck and Joy Baker

    The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a hugely fertile agricultural area, producing a vast crop of pears and cherries. The Baker family have farmed here since the 1850s.

  • Biologist and pear farmer Brett Baker surveys the Delta

    Biologist and pear farmer Brett Baker surveys the Delta

    Brett campaigns to improve the health of the Delta eco-system damaged by over-abstraction of water for homes, business and agriculture.

    Restore the Delta
  • A blue heron on the Delta

    A blue heron on the Delta

    This photo and all aerial shots courtesy of California Department of Water Resources.

    More images of the Delta
  • Asparagus farming in the Delta

    Asparagus farming in the Delta

  • Housing development in the Delta

    Housing development in the Delta

  • Bob Willett and Susan Mecum

    Bob Willett and Susan Mecum

    Two Sacramento residents take a dusk walk on one of the levees that protects California's state capital. Experts believe the city is at a higher threat from flooding than New Orleans was prior to Hurricane Katrina.

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