The drought’s seismic impacts on California growers and ranchers include 752,000 idled acres and $3 billion in lost revenue over the last two years, according to a new report.
Also shed in 2021 and 2022: 19,420 ag and food processing jobs and $5.9 billion in revenue to food processors.
The Nov. 22 report from the state Department of Agriculture was authored by researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California, UC Merced, and UC Davis.
“California is no stranger to drought, but this current drought has hit really hard in some of the typically water-rich parts of the state that are essential for the broader state water supply,” said UC Merced professor John Abatzoglou, co-author of the report.
Adapting to Climate Change
With California preparing for its fourth consecutive year of drought, many ideas are being pitched on how best to adjust to climate change.
“Our review suggests some efforts that could help improve adaptation to future droughts,” the researchers wrote. Here are some examples listed in the report:
- Fostering increased flexibility to trade water could further reduce the impacts of drought on local economic activity and employment.
- Programs that pay farmers to reduce irrigation water use can also be used to augment available water for the environment and water quality control during dry years.
- Assessing where infrastructure improvements could facilitate more groundwater recharge during wet years will be essential in many farming regions.
- Safety net programs could reduce the vulnerability of local communities when agricultural workers lose employment from crops idling.
- Programs to mitigate dry wells and avoid groundwater level declines near drinking water wells could protect drinking water supplies while enabling farmers to pump more groundwater — and maintain crop production — during droughts.
Another New Study Examines ‘Thriving With Less Water’
Meanwhile, the PPIC Water Policy Center published “Priorities for California’s Water: Thriving with Less” this month.
“This report considers the state of water in California: What changes are we seeing now, and what should we expect in the near future?” writes the center’s director, Ellen Hanak. “Then it examines how these climate shifts will impact urban and rural communities, agriculture, and the environment. Finally, it explores wet-year strategies that will help Californians get through the dry years.”
You can read the report at this link.