Rain Reprieve Lowers California Drought Cost Projection to $600 Million

Tue. August 16th, 2016
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez     

DAVIS, CA - Despite the fact that I still feel a measure of guilt any time I want to use water, and driving down roads I can still expect to see “we are in a drought” signs flashing concerns for conservation, El Niño looks to have done us a solid.

Latest reports are showing significant reprieves thanks to the rains California received this year, cutting losses greatly in comparison to 2015.

Jay Lund, Director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences"This year we still have a drought but it's not nearly as bad as 2014 or 2015 for agriculture," said Jay Lund, Director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences and an author of the latest drought analysis, according to CNBC.

Though we are still definitely in a drought for the fifth year running, the numbers back-to-back show marked improvement:

  • About 78,800 acres of farmland projected to be idled this year, compared with an estimated 540,000 acres of fallowed land in 2015.
  • Water shortages in 2016 projected to cost the ag industry a total of $550 million in direct costs, according to UC Davis researchers, compared to an estimated $1.8 billion in direct costs in 2015.
  • Total impact of losses, including from businesses supporting farming and the loss of household this year are forecast to top $600 million and 4,700 jobs statewide, compared to last year’s roughly $2.7 billion and 21,000 jobs lost statewide.
  • Recent numbers show 59 percent of California in a drought (as of Thursday, August 11) as opposed to 88 percent last year at this time.

Costs for water, too, should see some improvement, according to Lund. "Water costs are coming down from the highs farmers paid a year ago," he commented. The report noted that pre-drought, farmers paid about $120 per acre-foot of water, but during the dryspell the cost has been as high as 1,000 per acre-foot or more.

The analysis stated that almost all fallowed land due to drought this year is projected to be on the west side of the San Joaquin Basin, "which relies heavily on water imports."

While this is all an improvement, especially coming to the end of the West Coast’s summer season, Lund’s report comes with a word of caution.

"The state isn't out of the woods as a lack of rain in 2017 could put California back in bad shape," he said, according to the report.

With 59 percent of California still in a drought, AndNowUKnow won’t be hanging our rain-dancing shoes just yet.