Gonzales, CA - All of California is currently under either severe or exceptional levels of drought and is experiencing the driest 30 month period in the state's recorded history.
A recent study by UC Davis projects that the socioeconomic impacts of the current drought will be 50% more severe than in 2009 with 410,000 acres of row and feed crops taken out of production in order to preserve diminishing water supplies for longer term orchard and vineyard investments and the thinning of cattle and dairy herds in anticipation of green pasture shortages. A loss of 14,500 jobs is estimated as are higher food prices and increased energy costs to replace the loss of inexpensive hydro power. Even so, most analysts predict that the near term impact on the overall statewide economy and 2014-15 sales tax receipts should be minor though some localized pockets may be vulnerable where dependency on agricultural and water-related tourism expenditures is exceptionally high.
The analysts point out that less than 3% of the state's economy comes from agriculture and that in many areas surface water supplies are being replaced with increased pumping of groundwater. They further estimate that the impact of job losses will be offset by employment growth in other segments of the economy. They also note that government drought aid, crop insurance, unemployment benefits and public assistance programs will temporarily avert some potential economic and revenue impacts.
The longer term concern is that the drought could persist for another two or three years. Groundwater supplies are being pumped out at a faster rate than can be naturally recharged and a UC Berkeley analysis suggests that the relatively wet 20th century was an anomaly. If that is true and the state reverts to a suspected drier norm, the impact on the economy, environment, fire safety and food and energy costs will become more severe and far reaching.