The worst drought in recorded California history will take a severe toll on the regional and American economy, particularly in the agricultural, fishing, tourism, and even energy industries. The drought, which President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have linked to climate change, may result in an $11 billion loss in annual state revenue from agriculture according to the California Farm Water Coalition. Farmers may be forced to fallow up to 500,000 acres of land during this year’s planting season, threatening some with bankruptcy and endangering the livelihoods of the 117,000 Californians who work in farm production, processing and transportation. While the wine industry and its associated tourism is suffering, livestock farmers may be taking the hardest hit as parched pasture is replaced with expensive imported feed. In the highly fertile Central Valley jobs directly related to agriculture comprise nearly 40% of employment. Previous droughts have seen unemployment in some towns skyrocket as high as 45%, while the 2011 to 2012 drought took an estimated $50 billion toll on the American economy as a whole.
The availability of hydroelectric power, the state’s cleanest and cheapest energy supply, has also been adversely affected. The state’s salmon population could be severely affected, particularly if legislation from four California and Oregon senators is passed that would allow more water to be diverted to farms. The bill would contradict EPA regulations that protect fish stocks in the Bay-delta estuary. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the regulations themselves sustain thousands of jobs associated with the fishing industry and preserve water quality for regional farmers.
California Seeing Brown where Green Used to be” in the New York Times is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/california-seeing-brown-where-green-used-to-be.html?_r=0
“Punishing Drought has California Fearing the Worst” article from the Globe and Mail is available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/punishing-drought-has-california-fearing-the-worst/article16650342/
“Drought Forces California Farmers To Idle Cropland” article from Reuters available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/06/usa-drought-california-idUSL2N0LB00U20140206
“California, Orgeon Senators Introduce Drought Relief Legislation” from Senator Feinstein available at: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=e7668832-d0be-4329-a30f-d1e5e47863aa
“California Drought: Gov. Jerry Brown proposes $687 million Aid Plan” from the San Jose Mercury News is available at: http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25181590/california-drought-aid-plan-set-687-million-plan