California Almond farmers are facing competition from wild fish for water rights, as a drought rages on.
Thousands of salmon are fighting for their lives in the Klamath River of northern California, NPR’s The Salt reports, because the rivers are running too low, and therefore too warm — most of the fish can’t survive in water warmer than 70 degrees.
The federal government redirected the river in the 1960s to the Central Valley, and today much of its flow is directed to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, where much of the world’s almonds are produced.
Members of the Yurok tribe, a Native American group that lives in the Klamath River basin, and depends on the salmon for livelihood, are begging officials to release cold water from the federally managed Trinity Lake, in order to save some of the salmon.
“It’s not our fault they have orchards to water in the desert, and it’s not the fish’s fault, either,” tribesman Chook-Chook Hillman told The Salt. “We shouldn’t have to pay for that.”
“For us, salmon is life,” he continued. “Without salmon, we’d might as well just pack it up as a people.”
The regional director of the U.S Bureau of Reclamation promised Hillman the agency would decide sometime Thursday whether to give the Klamath salmon more water.