The California drought is jeopardizing the Merced economy

Mar 9, 2015

The announcement from the Merced Irrigation District that farmers would get no water from Lake McClure in 2015 wasn't a surprise, but it was a blow to the community all the same, reported Rob Parsons in the Merced Sun-Star.

Lake McClure is at 8 percent of its capacity and regulations prevent water diversions when the lake falls below 11.5 percent.

"A lot of (farmers) will be changing how they do things: buying fewer supplies in town, buying less fertilizer, hiring fewer people or laying people off,” a local farmer told the reporter. “People who can't get work here will move their families to other places where they can get work, and they'll be taking their kids out of our schools. It's just a snowball effect.”

Parsons also sought perspective on the drought impacts from a University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) expert.

"It really is important that people start understanding that this really is a natural disaster," said David Doll, UC ANR advisor in Merced County. "People are going to have to realize that we have a finite resource and people are going to start jockeying for position over this resource."

A report published last year by the UC Agricultural Issues Center, a UC ANR statewide program, said the cost of the drought in 2014 was about $2.2 billion, and that the Central Valley is hardest hit, losing about $800 million in crop revenue and spending nearly $450 million on pumping groundwater.

According to the Merced Sun-Star article, the Agricultural Issues Center is expected to publish an update later this year.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist