The most populous state of the United Statesâ€” California has the most varied climate and is very much prone to multilayer drought. It has a Mediterranean nature of climate, which results in very little precipitation during the summer months. Due to this it is facing its fourth year of severe drought since 2012.The Drought has a widespread impact. However, assessing it is a very challenging job because there is no standard procedure to compare and measure. The effects of drought are very uneven; in some areas where groundwater reserves are limited, the impact on employment and economy is very harsh and severe. Whereas, in others, an increased cost of crop price compensate the expanded groundwater use.
Changes in Water Availability
According to the survey of CVP and SWP, water irrigation district departments, the estimated reduction in surface water is around 8.7 million acre-feet statewide. The shortage has been partially balanced by groundwater pumping, but still there is an estimated net shortage of 2.7 million acre-feet ground water. This can result in long-term water shortage in the area and more agricultural losses.
Revenue from crops has increased over the past 15 years in California; therefore it remains the largest agricultural producer in terms of exports and output. Farmers harvested 640,000 fewer acres, which is around 9 percent below pre-drought levels; however crop revenue still remained strong. This long-term increase in crop revenue is a result of several factors. There has been expansion of fruit and nut acreage and a major shift from lower- to higher-value crops acreage. However state crop revenue and employment remains high, but the true picture is that it conceals some negative impacts of the drought. The high production is the effect of extensive and unsustainable overdraft of groundwater in the areas. This jolted the local economies in areas with extensive fallowing and shifted all burden to them. This will have a lasting and damaging consequence.
Drought and Food Price
California is the major producer of some of the agricultural crops like grapes, almonds, and broccoli. They account for more than 90% of the country’s production. Therefore, Impact on food price due to drought is the major concern for everyone. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Economic Research Service (ERS) found that there is no evidence that the drought had any impact on food prices. According to these departments, the increase and decrease in food price were reflective of others factors and unrelated to the ongoing drought.
There was a widespread feeling that drought would result in loss of several thousand part-time and seasonal jobs. According to the California Employment Development Department (2015b), the actual impact of agricultural employment was much less than it was expected. The agency found that employment increased every year since 2010. The data suggests that actual employment would have been higher, if there had been less fallowing in the region. Fallowing has reduced the farm jobs in those areas, but people shifted from field crops to tomatoes and tree crops. Thus, drought has very negligible impact on agricultural employment.
California is one of the most fertile and productive states of the world. The farmers have implemented a series of strategies to acclimatize to constant drought conditions. Some strategies have improved their resilience, others damaged. Farmers adopted a well-organized water management practices and technologies, like switching from lower to higher value crops, and modern drip irrigation helped them to minimize the impact of drought. Finally, California is changing in many ways to withstand the ongoing drought. We can conclude that the employments and economy have not been unfavorably affected by drought. The resilience will have long lasting positive as well as negative impact on the ecosystem, local communities, and future generation.
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