UC Davis Study: California Drought Will Badly Hurt State's Farming Industry

Thursday, 22 May 2014 09:32 AM

By Michael Kling

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California's record drought will deliver "a severe blow" to California's farm industry, according to a new University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences study.

The drought will cost the industry $1.7 billion and cause more than 14,500 workers to lose their jobs, the study predicts

Irrigators in California's Central Valley, the state's primary farming region, will receive only two-thirds of their normal river water deliveries. The world's richest agricultural region, the Central Valley produces much of the nation's fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Editor's Note:
These 38 Dates Are Key to Bagging $313,038


According to researchers, the drought will force growers to fallow 410,000 additional acres, or 6 percent, of the valley's irrigated cropland, and cause direct farm revenue losses of $738 million. The drought will reduce surface water deliveries by 32.5 percent, or 6.5 million acre-feet of water, enough to cover 6.5 million acres under a foot of water.

Farmers will replace much of their water losses with groundwater, California's largest source of water during drought years, says Jay Lund, the study's co-author and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences.

"Without access to groundwater, this year's drought would be truly devastating to farms and cities throughout California," Lund explains.

However, the groundwater pumping, which will cost an estimated $450 million, will still leave a shortage of 1.5 million acre-feet of irrigation water, about 7.5 percent of normal irrigation water use in the Central Valley, according to the forecast.

The drought will probably be much more costly than the 2009 drought was, which caused 7,500 job losses and 270,000 acres to be fallowed.

"There will be substantial long term costs of groundwater overdraft that are not reflected in this study," the report states. "Furthermore, if another critically dry year occurs in 2015 the socioeconomic impacts will likely be much more severe."

The drought should not threaten the state's overall economy, Lund notes, as agriculture represents less than 3 percent of the state's $1.9 trillion per year GDP.

The entire state of California is now in one the three worst stages of drought — "severe drought," "extreme drought" or "exceptional drought" — according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

It's the first time that's happed since the Drought Monitor began in 2000, according to Scientific American.

The current heat wave is exacerbating the situation and prompting numerous wildfires.

"Things are not trending in the right direction," Mark Svoboda, a scientist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, tells Scientific American Climate Central.

Editor's Note: These 38 Dates Are Key to Bagging $313,038

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