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Rice farmers may reap unexpected benefits from drought

As California endures the fourth year of a severe drought, rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley may be cashing in on their water supply.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered up to $71 million for the farmers to ship some of their water to the Los Angeles area. The newspaper reports that nine irrigation districts have already made tentative deals to sell their H2O to the water agency that serves 19 million customers.

According to the newspaper, some farmers stand to make more cash selling their water than from selling rice.

Of course there is a tradeoff: The Bee reports that more than 37 billion gallons of water could be shipped away, meaning a major dent in California's beleaguered rice industry.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last January and called on Californians to cut water use by 20 percent. State officials are also considering other water restrictions such as forcing residents to ask for water at restaurants and for fresh towels and sheets at hotels.

A recent analysis from NASA satellite data concluded that the state would need 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from its dry spell. That's roughly equivalent to filling up Lake Meade, the U.S.' largest reservoir, one and a half times.

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