Drought has already cost nearly $2 billion and 14,000 jobs, and it’s probably not over yet

A new report estimates that in 2021, drought conditions cost agriculture $1.2 billion and another half a billion dollars to other sectors. The report, by researchers from UC Merced and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), attributes these economic impacts to one of the driest years of water on record, which resulted in huge water losses. water even after tapping into millions of acre-feet of groundwater.

“We estimated that there was a reduction of about 5 million acre feet of water due to surface water shortages – basically how much federal and state water projects failed to deliver compared to the relatively recent normal delivery conditions,” said lead author Josué Medellín-Azuara, professor of environmental engineering at UC Merced. Even after high levels of groundwater pumping, “we saw a shortage of about 1.4 million acre-feet of water,” he said.

As a result, the drought cost nearly 14,000 part-time and full-time jobs and wiped out huge tracts of farmland. “This resulted in approximately 395,000 acres of fallow land, mostly in the Central Valley,” Medellín-Azuara said. According to the report, the fallow disproportionately affected rice in the Sacramento Valley, cotton in the San Joaquin Valley, and grains and field crops in other parts of the state. Reduced yields were particularly apparent among Russian River grape growers and dairy farm forage fields.

These estimates do not include the effects of water reductions due to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which PPIC says could result in more than half a million acres in permanent fallow over the next few decadesor linger supply chain issues and rising fuel and fertilizer prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As California enters what could become the third year of drought, Medellín-Azuara warns that rainfall this coming month will set the tone for the rest of the year. “If these conditions continue for the next few weeks without additional precipitation, we will likely have the cumulative effects of the previous two years on this one as well,” he said.

Mike Wade shares Medellín-Azuara’s concerns. As executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, Wade predicts economic losses this year could rival those felt in 2015, which was the low point of California’s previous multi-year drought. “We expect much worse this year, and it has to do with a variety of factors, including how much water is stored in the year,” he said.

Wade is confident that many of the fields that have been fallow in the past two years will eventually come back into production, although “some of them may take a while to reach full production if we’re talking about permanent crops that were removed and end up being replanted,” he said.

“But what really concerns us is the overall impact on rural communities, on jobs, on the ability to grow food for California and the nation. Especially as world events unfold, I don’t think there is a more pressing issue than food security.

Wade thinks it’s too late to build infrastructure to guard against the current drought. But he says the state should prepare now for the next drought, by funding projects to bolster the state’s water supply. “And that doesn’t mean building a 700-foot high concrete dam or anything like that,” he said. “We can do a better job of managing floodplains, doing flood irrigation on farmland to improve groundwater recharge, to manage flood flows and direct them away from rivers where there is potential damage to rural communities, and bring them to areas where we can capture and store that water.

Source link

About Bob C. Zoller

Check Also

Amazon India claims to have created more than 11.6 million jobs; $5 billion export permit

Amazon India said on Sunday that it has cumulatively created more than 11.6 lakh direct …