North America, Weather/Climate

From global french-fry hub to water crisis: Othello’s climate paradox

In the high plains of central Washington, the town of Othello has become the global hub for french-fry production, thanks to climate change. As Eli Tan reports in a news story published by The Washington Post, producing 1.5 billion pounds of frozen french fries, hash browns, and tater tots annually, Othello accounts for 15% of North American production.

The town’s advantageous position, abundant renewable energy, and the effects of climate change have made it a prime location for potato farming, Tan writes. However, with rapid growth comes challenges. Othello faces a severe water shortage, and unless $400 million is secured to pipe water from the Columbia River canals, the region’s wells could run dry within five years.

Sara Higgins, executive director of the Columbia Basin Development League, emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “This isn’t just about them. This is about an entire country’s food security.”

While solutions are being sought, the clock is ticking for Othello. The town’s identity, deeply intertwined with its potato production, hangs in the balance. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, Othello’s story serves as a stark reminder of the challenges and complexities that lie ahead.

Source: The Washington Post. Read the comprehensive story here
Photo: Potatoes at the farm of Adam Weber and Deven Johnson in Quincy, Wash. As climate change has affected other parts the United States, the Columbia Basin has become the most productive U.S. potato region. Credit Rajah Bose for The Washington Post

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