2015 Drought Costs Ag Nearly Two Billion!

DROUGHT COSTS CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE $1.84B AND 10,100 JOBS IN 2015

The drought is tightening its grip on California agriculture, squeezing about 30 percent more workers and cropland out of production than in 2014, according to the latest drought impact report by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

In 2015, the drought costs to the state’s agricultural economy will reach about $1.84 billion and 10,100 seasonal jobs, the report estimated, with the Central Valley hardest hit.

The analysis also forecasts how the industry will fare if the drought persists through 2017.

‘NOT A FREE LUNCH’

Currently, the industry overall remains robust. The agricultural economy continues to grow in this fourth year of severe drought, thanks mostly to the state’s vast but declining reserves of groundwater, which will offset about 70 percent of the surface water shortage this year, the researchers said.

California is the world’s richest food-producing region. Continued strong global demand and prices for many of its fruits, nuts and vegetables has helped sustain the farm economy along with intrastate water transfers and shifts in growing locations.

“We’re getting by remarkably well this year — much better than many had predicted — but it’s not a free lunch,” said lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.

The heavy reliance on groundwater comes at ever-increasing energy costs as farmers pump deeper and drill more wells. Some of the heavy pumping is in basins already in severe overdraft — where groundwater use greatly exceeds replenishment of aquifers — inviting further land subsidence, water quality problems and diminishing reserves needed for future droughts.

Further, several small rural communities continue to suffer from high unemployment and drying up of domestic wells because of the drought, particularly in the Tulare Basin.

“If a drought of this intensity persists beyond 2015, California’s agricultural production and employment will continue to erode,” said co-author Josue Medellin-Azuara, a water economist with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

MAJOR CONCLUSIONS

The UC Davis team used computer models and the latest estimates of surface water availability from state and federal water projects and local water districts. They forecast several drought-related impacts in the state’s major agricultural regions for the current growing season, including:

  • The direct costs of drought to agriculture will be $1.84 billion for 2015. The total impact to all economic sectors is an estimated $2.74 billion, compared with $2.2 billion in 2014. The state’s farmers and ranchers currently receive more than $46 billion annually in gross revenues, a small fraction of California’s $1.9 trillion-a-year economy.
  • The loss of about 10,100 seasonal jobs directly related to farm production, compared with the researchers’ 2014 drought estimate of 7,500 jobs. When considering the spillover effects of the farm losses on all other economic sectors, the employment impact of the 2015 drought more than doubles to 21,000 lost jobs.
  • Surface water shortages will reach nearly 8.7 million acre-feet, which will be offset mostly by increased groundwater pumping of 6 million acre-feet.
  • Net water shortages of 2.7 million acre-feet will cause roughly 542,000 acres to be idled — 114,000 more acres than the researchers’ 2014 drought estimate. Most idled land is in the Tulare Basin.

The effects of continued drought through 2017 (assuming continued 2014 water supplies) will likely be 6 percent worse than in 2015, with the net water shortage increasing to 2.9 million acre-feet a year. Gradual decline in groundwater pumping capacity and water elevations will add to the incremental costs of a prolonged drought.

GROUNDWATER LAWS COULD HELP

The scientists noted that new state groundwater laws requiring local agencies to attain sustainable yields could eventually reverse the depletion of underground reserves.

“The transition will cause some increased fallowing of cropland or longer crop rotations but will help preserve California’s ability to support more profitable permanent and vegetable crops during drought,” said co-author Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

The report was primarily funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Other authors on the report include Daniel Sumner, a UC Davis professor of agricultural and resource economics and director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, and Duncan MacEwan of the ERA Economics consulting firm in Davis.

Sakata Seed America Awarded Title of ‘Water Saving Hero’

Sakata Seed America Awarded Title of ‘Water Saving Hero,’ Sets Example during Severe California Drought

Sakata Seed America is doing their part to ‘Go Green’ and conserve water during the severe California drought. The drought has taken a huge toll on the entire state; however, it has hit both the Agricultural and Horticultural industries particularly hard. According to a study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, “the drought is expected to be worse for California’s agricultural economy this year because of reduced water availability…Farmers will have 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal water year – about 33 percent loss of water supply. Individual farmers will face losses of zero to 100 percent.” In response, Sakata has made it a priority to focus on ways to reduce their water usage and boost long-term sustainability for the future.

In 2014, two main projects were completed to conserve water at the Morgan Hill office headquarters. First, 12,500 square feet of turf was removed and replaced with drought-tolerant plants and landscape coverage. In addition, the overhead sprinklers were removed and replaced with a low-volume drip system. The estimated water savings for the 2014 updates totals to 300,000 gallons of water annually. For the remaining turf, complete irrigation updates were implemented, and over 275 sprinkler nozzles were upgraded to a weather track system which reduces water when it’s not needed, resulting in an additional 50,000 gallons of water conserved annually.

This year, Sakata has already begun their next phase of water reduction. Thus far, 16,088 additional square footage of turf has been removed from the front of the company’s headquarters and replaced with a new, drought-resistance landscape and low-volume drip systems. And it doesn’t stop there, Sakata’s internal committee, ‘GreenUp,’ which is solely dedicated to creating a greener work environment has a lot more in store for the future – some immediate plans for facility upgrades include water-saving restroom updates such as touchless faucets. In addition, the committee is distributing free shower buckets to all interested employees.

Sakata’s water conservation efforts have not gone unnoticed. In September 2014, Sakata was deemed the title of a ‘Water Saving Hero’ and presented a plaque by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, who have been encouraging water conservation all over Santa Clara County with their ‘Brown is the New Green’ campaign, which distributes free ‘Brown is the New Green’ lawn signs, shower buckets, moisture meters, shower timers, shower heads and hose nozzles for Santa Clara county residents.

“It’s part of our responsibility to the community and the industry to conserve water and lower our carbon footprint. We are proud of our efforts thus far, but are determined to take it further and become a role model for other companies,”states Tye Anderson, Senior Logistics & Operations Manager for Sakata.

Sakata’s GreenUp committee’s future plans stretch far beyond lessening water usage and focus on sustainability as a whole. Long-term goals include such workplace additions as bike racks and charging stations for electric cars.

For more information on how you can help conserve water during the California drought, please visit: www.saveourwater.com. For more on Sakata’s contribution, read the full article.

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Headquartered in Morgan Hill, CA, Sakata Seed America is a major research, seed production and marketing-distribution subsidiary of Sakata Seed Corporation, established in 1913.   Sakata Seed America serves as the headquarters for the North American operations.  

Featured Photo: Sakata’s Tye Anderson accepts Water Saving Hero Award

California has given away rights to far more water than it has

Source: UC Davis News and Information

California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has, making it hard for regulators to tell whose supplies should be cut during a drought, University of California researchers reported.

The scientists said California’s water-rights regulator, the State Water Resources Control Board, needs a systematic overhaul of policies and procedures to bridge the gaping disparity, but lacks the legislative authority and funding to do so.

Ted Grantham, who explored the state’s water-rights database as a postdoctoral researcher with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, said the time is ripe for tightening the water-use accounting.

“Given the public’s current attention on drought and California water, we now have an unprecedented opportunity for strengthening the water-rights system,” said Grantham, who conducted the analysis with UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers.

Better information might enable state regulators to better target water cutbacks in times of drought, Grantham said.

Grantham and Viers verified that water-rights allocations exceed the state’s actual surface water supply by about 300 million acre-feet, enough to fill Lake Tahoe about 2.5 times.

The state has allocated a total maximum allowable use of 370 million acre-feet of surface water — more than five times the 70 million acre-feet available in a year of good precipitation, according to the researchers’ review of active water rights on record. The analysis was published today (Aug. 19) in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The scientists said the California’s water-rights allocation system is complicated and backlogged, which contributes to the mismatched accounting. For example, people sometimes take water, apply retroactively for the right to use the water and continue taking it — sometimes for up to a decade — while their applications are pending.

Inaccurate reporting by water-rights holders worsens the problem. Some may even deliberately overestimate so they do not lose as much if cutbacks occur. The result is that in most water basins and in most years, far more people hold water rights than there is water. In the San Joaquin River basin, for example, water-rights allocations exceed the river’s average annual flow by eightfold.

“All those allocations mean that in times of drought, it’s hard to tell who should have to reduce water use, causing delays in issuing curtailments,“ said Viers, director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at UC Merced.

During the current drought, the state water board has for some watersheds ordered curtailments for all water users, to protect fish.

Viers and Grantham, now with the U.S. Geological Survey, are working to iron out issues with its database and make the information available to policymakers.

Zero Water for West Side Districts

The unprecedented zero water deliveries this year are extremely hard for managers of West Side Water Districts.

Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District based in Los Banos, is very frustrated about keeping farming operations and employment viable with zero percent water allocation.

Martin McIntyre,
Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District.

“The biggest frustration for us has been the regulations that interfere with water supply deliveries intended to protect a couple of endangered fish species. From our perspective, they are rather misguided,” said McIntyre.

A recent study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found that the current drought is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture. This, in conjunction with federal environmental restrictions on the state, have create some difficult situations.

“There are many causes in the decline of species, and the regulators have seized water flow as the principle cause. There is ample evidence that it’s the declining food supply and the toxic releases into the delta; but the popular, publicized notion remains that water deliveries are endangering the species, and its simply isn’t the case,” said McIntyre.

While the preservation of fish species is an admirable goal, the environmental restrictions that have been put into effect are not the most appropriate solution. Especially during a severe drought when farmers are already struggling.

“We’re allowed to take, depending on the year, approximately 300 smelt, little Minnows, at the major pumping stations that serve the lower two-thirds of the state. That’s a snack for a Striped Bass! It’s estimated that, in some reaches of the delta, 90 percent of salmon smelt are eaten by Striped Bass; and yet, regulations are putting the state’s water supply in jeopardy in a misguided effort to try to recover the species–without addressing the more fundamental problems,” said McIntyre.