The ongoing drought in California is expected to heavily impact the state's agricultural economy this year because of reduced water availability, according to preliminary estimates released byt the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
The study estimates farmers will have 2.7m acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal water year — about a 33 per cent loss of water supply, on average. The impacts are concentrated mostly in the San Joaquin Valley and are not evenly distributed; individual farmers will face losses of zero to 100 per cent.
Expanded groundwater pumping will offset more than 70 per cent of this surface water deficit, according to CDFA modeling of how farmers are likely to respond. This leaves a shortage of 2.5m acre-feet — 9 to 10 per cent of the amount normally applied to crops — compared with a net water shortage of 1.5m acre-feet in 2014.
The estimates also show that farmers will fallow roughly 560,000 acres or 6 to 7 per cent of California’s average annual irrigated cropland.
Economically, the drought seems on track to reduce crop, dairy and livestock revenues by US$1.2bn this year, the forecast predicts. Pumping costs are expected to reach nearly $600 million.