Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, reports that all of California is now depicted as being in severe drought (D2) or worse this week, with the D3/D4 areas remaining unchanged. A heat wave is settling in that will only serve to exacerbate and accelerate drought impact concerns across the state. Increased water demand and risk of fire will ramp up as the heat does, and the state’s agricultural industry continues to suffer. The current drought map is included below.
A cursory review of drought impacts includes:
Groundwater: CDFA reports the state’s groundwater resources are at historically low levels. Fifty percent of the 5,400 wells assessed have dropped since 2008 to points lower than they in the previous century. San Joaquin Valley levels fell more than 100 feet below previous historic lows, while Sacramento Valley, Sonoma Valley and Los Angeles basin levels fell up to 50 feet. Note that the analysis was done in the spring when groundwater levels are usually at their highest.
Curtailments: CDFA reports curtailments in various watersheds, depending upon runoff conditions, water demand and the type of water rights. Water rights holders, including water agencies, farmers and other property owners, have been unable to receive their due water supplies. Junior water rights holders lose out first. Efforts are underway to save water for essential health and safety purposes, wildlife and habitat.
Food Assistance: The California Department of Social Services announced food assistance provisions to at least 24 counties with high unemployment rates and a high proportion of agricultural workers. Foodbanks struggle to supply provisions as the state grows less produce and sources provide lower produce donations.
Livestock Reductions: Many cattle and other livestock producers in California transported thousands of animals by truck to other states as they cannot wait out the stunted grass and depleted water sources. Reuters reported that up to 100,000 California cattle have left the state in just the past four months and producers are selling their cattle early.
Fruit and vegetable prices: rose 2 and 3 percent in 2013, respectively, per USDA, as low water supplies affected production. A similar price increase in 2014 is likely as more than three million acres out of the nine million acres of irrigated land in California receive no surface water, aside from rain.
Reduced production: USDA forecasts a 20 percent reduction in rice production and a 35 percent drop in cotton production in California this year as farmers leave fields fallow in response to very meager water allocations.
Photo credit: Robert Galbraith/Reuters