California’s drought could cost Central Valley farms and irrigated agriculture $1.7 billion and some 14,500 jobs this year, according to a study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.
Researchers estimated that Central Valley irrigators would receive only two-thirds of their normal river water deliveries this year because of the drought.
The analysis predicted several severe impacts for the current growing season, including:
- Reduced surface water deliveries of 6.5 million acre-feet of water, or 32.5 percent of normal water use by Central Valley growers.
- Fallowing of an additional 410,000 acres, representing 6 percent of irrigated cropland in the Central Valley.
- The loss of an estimated 14,500 seasonal and full-time jobs. About 6,400 of these jobs are directly involved in crop production.
- A total cost of $1.7 billion to the Central Valley’s irrigated farm industry this year, including about $450 million in additional costs of groundwater pumping.
- About 60 percent of the economic losses will occur in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Lake Basin.
Growers are expected to replace much of the loss in project water deliveries with groundwater, California’s largest source of water storage during drought years.
The additional pumping will cost an estimated $450 million and 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 Central Valley is the richest food-producing region in the world. Much of the nation’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown on the region’s 7 million acres of irrigated farmland.
The center plans to release a more comprehensive report of the drought’s economic impact on the state’s irrigated agriculture this summer.
Photo Credit: Dry fields at Panoche Road, looking west, near San Joaquin, Calif., by Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo