California drought could cost ag industry $1.7 billion

05/19/2014 02:09:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

click image to zoomSan Luis ReservoirVicky BoydSan Luis Reservoir, a major storage facility for California farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, has significantly less water than normal.California's lingering drought could cost the Central Valley agricultural industry more than $1.7 billion this year, according to preliminary results from a University of California, Davis, study.

The study is based on farmers with irrigation receiving only two-thirds of their typical river water deliveries, according to a news release. Many farmers, especially those in the federal Central Valley Project, are receiving no deliveries this year.

The preliminary analysis is the first socio-economic forecast of this year's drought. The study is being headed by Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture had requested the study to obtain a better understanding of the drought's economic impacts.

Among the effects the study predicts are:

• Reduced surface water deliveries of 6.5 million acre-feet, or 32.5 percent of normal. Growers who have access to groundwater are expected to pump to replace some of what was lost.

• Additional pumping will cost about $450 million and still leave a shortage of 1.5 million acre-feet of irrigation supplies. An acre-foot, about 326,000 gallons, will meet the annual water needs of a family of four to five.

• Fallowing of an additional 410,000 acres of cropland, representing 6 percent of irrigated land in the Central Valley.

• The loss of about 14,500 seasonal and full-time jobs. About 6,400 of these jobs are directly involved in crop production.

• About 60 percent of the losses will occur in the San Joaquin Valley and the Tulare Lake Basin southwest of Fresno.

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