UC study provides look at consequences from water shortages

california drought

Below is a statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition.


An updated study released today by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences provides a glimpse of the consequences of water supply shortages for the state of California. These effects will be felt as escalating unemployment, substantial economic loss and ongoing future water supply shortages.

“We expected the numbers to increase from the previous report released in May,” said Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition. “As the growing season continues, the numbers may go even higher.”

Updating the previous report, researchers underscored the importance of having sufficient surface water deliveries to replenish the groundwater being utilized by farmers to survive this unprecedented drought.

Increases in estimates of drought-related unemployment bring levels to approximately 2.5 times those experienced in the drought of 2009. The report also raised estimated losses to the state economy to more than $2.2 billion in 2014.

Impacts will be primarily focused in some of the state’s most vulnerable regions, particularly those regions serviced by the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.

The report also warns that there is a better than 50 percent chance that water supply shortages may continue into next year, regardless of potential El Nino weather events.

Farmers are being forced to dip into groundwater savings, as well as turning to water transfers to weather these shortages.

“Farmers would prefer to be using the surface water they are paying to receive, but they have been forced to turn to groundwater supplies to offset the loss of 6.6 million acre-feet of water from surface supplies curtailed by drought and regulations,” said Wade. This loss of water illustrates the failure to upgrade a water storage and delivery system that was built when California’s population was only 23 million. We must prepare today for the growth we know is coming.

“Farmers, are using all the tools they have available, and have also turned to water markets to purchase available water. This water is coming at prices that are climbing toward $2,000 per acre-foot; instead of the normal $100-200 per acre-foot cost.

“California cannot withstand future years of drought without an improvement in its water infrastructure. At the same time, more common sense must be applied to regulations that keep water away from farms, people and businesses.”


Learn More About Fixing Our Aging Water Infrastructure

We’re all concerned about the quality of the food we feed our families.  Having a variety of fresh, locally grown choices at the grocery store is important- and that’s what you get when buying California produce.

But did you know that many family farmers depend on the same water supplies and aging water system as you do for your home?  Learn more about the water supply challenges facing California’s families and our farmers below.

Why don’t California Farmers have enough water to grow the fresh California produce we need?

Regulatory restrictions sometimes limit the amount of water that gets sent to farms. When that happens, farmers must find other sources of water, often at much higher prices or worse, they have to leave fields unplanted because water simply isn’t available to grow with.

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What if California Farmers aren’t able to grow the high quality food my family deserves?

California farms produce local food for all of us but sometimes they just can’t get enough water. Tough choices have to be made and sometimes farmers have to fallow land that otherwise could have grown tomatoes, melons, broccoli or other fruits and vegetables. When that happens grocery stores sometimes look to import food from other states or other countries to find sufficient produce to fill their shelves.

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How does having a reliable water supply help farmers grow my food?

Farmers make planting decisions early in the season and when water supplies are unreliable it is difficult for them to choose which crops to plant. That can lead to changes in the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that make it to the grocery store and also higher prices for the produce that makes it there.

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Why doesn’t our aging water system work?

Much of California’s water supply system was designed and built more than 50 years ago. Over the years California’s population has grown and the system that was designed to provide water to 20 million people simply can’t keep up with a population that is almost double that today. In order to meet our future needs California must invest in additional conservation and recycling as well as new supplies that can be stored in reservoirs or groundwater aquifers and moved efficiently to parts of the state where they are needed.

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What other ways will our aging water system impact me?

California’s vibrant economy depends on adequate and dependable water supplies. It takes water to meet the needs of new businesses that in turn, provide jobs for residents today and into the future. Water is important for the environment and recreation as well. Investing in California’s water system makes sense for everyone.

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What can I do to ensure we all have a reliable water supply and politicians fix our aging water system?
Many of California’s leading water experts have put together a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems affecting our families and farmers.  Their hard work over the past four years will ensure that our water system is ready to face the needs of future generations.  The plan, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (or BDCP) will improve the reliability of water supplies and provide more than 100,000 acres of new habitat to help restore endangered species.

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