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From Farms to Ski Resorts, Calif. Businesses Hurting from Drought

droughtThe historic drought in California is hurting businesses from ski resorts to farms and utilities.

Some public power agencies in California could be financially pressured this year by the ongoing drought’s impact on hydropower production, according to rating agency Fitch.

While the financial impact for utilities is expected to be manageable, those power agencies with a greater reliance on hydroelectric generation may be forced to use more expensive generation and purchased power to replace the potential shortfall in hydropower output for the third year in a row, Fitch says.

Eight of the 14 Fitch-rated public power issuers receive between 10 and 32 percent of their power supply from hydroelectric resources according to Fitch’s 2013 report, California Public Power Agencies.

The drought has also forced California ranchers to sell portions of their herd that would normally be fed on rain-watered grass. Other ranchers have had to bring in expensive hay to feed herds while crop farmers have left fields fallow due to a lack of water. Westlands Water District officials predict that around 200,000 acres of prime agricultural land could go unplanted in Fresno County alone, the New York Times reports.

Last month,  state water officials to tell San Joaquin Valley farmers that they will likely only receive 5 percent of the water they were expecting this year. The drought is made worse by many farmers switching to orchard-style crops, like almonds and olives, which need water every year. Vegetables or cotton fields, by comparison, can be left fallow in dry years.

Some ski resorts that would normally open in December are still closed. The Donner Ski Ranch in Norden, Calif., has just a foot of snow at its base. It would normally have several feet of snow in January, the New York Times says. Seemingly confused by the warmer weather a bear — that would normally be deep in hibernation at this time of year — recently wandered on-piste at one local ski resort.

Photo Credit: Empty storage shed on a cattle ranch via Shutterstock

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