FERN Decodes the Water Wars of California’s Drought

In March 2015, we published a profile of Cannon Michael, a Central Valley farmer who devised a water-sharing scheme to help his struggling neighbors cope with the epic drought. “How One California Farmer Is Battling the Worst Drought in 1,200 years,” published by Ensia, was more than a feel-good story about one man’s selflessness. It also exposed the deeply flawed water-allocation system that has evolved over more than 100 years in California, and that is exacerbating the problems currently facing America’s most-important agricultural region. The story had legs. After more than 60,000 views on Ensia and its syndication partners, Business Insider, Quartz, and Climate Central, it had nearly 2,000 social-media shares. Twitter highlights include Ensia (32,000+ followers); Sunset Magazine (68,000+ followers) and NPR’s The Salt (79,000+ followers). The story also made Michael a farmer in demand, as he began turning up in stories about the drought in outlets like The New York Times and NPR.

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