‘It’s a disaster.’ Drought dramatically shrinking California farmland, costing $1.7 billion
Drought has cut California growers’ corn crop by 20 percent since May, according to one industry trade group.
And with more than two weeks of dry conditions already this year, there is an urgency to expand water supplies now.
A second consecutive dry summer in California is putting growers in a difficult position.
The situation is similar to what California faced from 2014 to 2015 and from 1995 to 2005.
Experts say this is the second coming of “the Dust Bowl,” with the only difference being that Californians are doing everything they can to bring water in from elsewhere.
“There’s going to have to be a serious look at the ways in which we manage the water that we have,” said Mark Lemley, a senior water manager at the California Department of Water Resources.
There was concern that the state wasn’t taking enough from other sources to avoid a repeat of the drought that decimated farms and communities from the late 1960s to the late 1970s.
In addition, the state’s efforts to address water issues have come at a significant cost to other sectors.
The state says it has spent more than $3.5 billion to address the drought. The majority of that cash — about $2.7 billion — has been spent to help farmers, a number of whom may default on their loans, or have been forced to sell land because they don’t have the money to pay off past debts.
The state says it has also helped farmers diversify their crops and move them to higher ground to better adapt to high droughts.
But, Lemley says, that’s not a complete solution. “It’s not a complete solution and I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term solution.
“We have to look at other ways to help our agricultural economy. And I think we will.”
In 2016, farmers faced shortages of water, and water managers say the situation is likely to get more tricky in 2017.
On May 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that a state drought declared by Gov. Jerry Brown on May 1 has not been officially declared.
California Department of Water Resources Director Richard Drover. (Photo: Eric Risberg/AP)
With the drought having a hard time being officially declared, Drover called for an update