- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The story was based on a report released Tuesday by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. The 2014 drought, the report says, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture - about one third less than normal.
A key concern is the loss of agricultural jobs, said lead author Richard Howitt at a press conference about the report. "What really hurts is you are also losing 17,000 jobs," Howitt said. "(These jobs) are from a sector that has the least ability to roll with the punches."
Consumer food prices will be largely unaffected. Higher prices at the grocery store of high-value California crops like nuts, wine grapes and dairy foods are driven more by market demand than by the drought.
The report calls the groundwater situation in California "a slow-moving train wreck."
“California's agricultural economy overall is doing remarkably well, thanks mostly to groundwater reserves,” said Jay Lund, a co-author of the study and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences. “But we expect substantial local and regional economic and employment impacts. We need to treat that groundwater well so it will be there for future droughts.”
California is currently the only Western state without a framework for groundwater management.
The UC Davis news team has provided these resources about the new drought report:
- Read the full report.
- Watch the recorded webcast of report press briefing.
- Download photos
- Download audio sound bites from lead author.
The report says the Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent, in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.
Drought impacts being felt
The ongoing drought has contributed to declines in Fresno County crop values, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee. Fresno County's overall gross value fell 2.2 percent to $6.4 billion in 2013, and with the reduction lost its bragging rights as the No. 1 ag county in California. Tulare County took the No. 1 spot with a record $7.8 billion in ag value, riding on robust dairy prices.
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wright said the drought -- one of the worst in state history -- has pinched the production of several west side field crops including cotton, corn silage and barley. The field crop category fell by 42 percent.