Three Years of Intense Drought Leaves Uncertainty in Agriculture
By Jean-Paul McDonald, Farms.com
As the severe drought in California continues for a third year in a row, farmers in the nation’s largest agricultural producing state grow more concerned that their businesses may not survive much longer without water. The usual winter rains failed to materialize again this year, leaving nearly the entire state parched. Ground water wells and reservoirs are quickly becoming depleted, and the recent storms in Northern California have hardly had any impact on the dire situation.
With the majority of fruits and vegetables in the United States being grown in California, consumers can expect food prices to increase as production becomes more difficult and unsustainable. According to California Governor Jerry Brown, this is "perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago."
With more than 200,000 hectares (over 770 square miles) now lying fallow, farmers are losing income at record levels, which has also lead to a reduction in their workforce, in some cases shutting down their entire operations and laying off their employees. This is not the first time in California’s history that drought has been a major concern. In 1976-1977, the state suffered a major drought, and before that in 1924. However, while the drought we are seeing now in the 21st century is severe, it may continue for longer than the dry spells the state has experienced in the past.
Farmers continue to reduce their water consumption as much as possible (agriculture accounts for 80% of the state’s water usage) and have even switched to growing crops that require less water to produce. All Californians must remain vigilant and continue to practice water conservation by reducing water use for non-essential purposes, including outdoor water use for lawns and gardens.