The Massive Costs Of California’s Drought Are Already Adding Up

Thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars will evaporate this year as a result of California’s drought, a new report says.

John Alves/John Alves

A green rice crop in the Central Valley of California.

2. A new report out Monday paints a harrowing picture of California’s drought.


The report — produced by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences — shows that lack of water is going to slam California’s Central Valley, a bread basket region that grows much of the food Americans everywhere end up eating.

Samson1976/Samson1976

4. Currently, every square inch of California is experiencing at least severe drought.


Less water leads to less food output, which means the Central Valley will see major economic losses. Here are a few of the report’s key findings:

• 14,500 full- and part-time jobs will disappear.

• The Central Valley will lose $1.7 billion.

• 410 acres of agricultural land will lie fallow.

• The entire GDP of California will drop by almost $855 million.

tfoxfoto/tfoxfoto

Silage combine working a field of alfalfa in a Central California valley.

6. The 2014 drought will be a lot worse than the 2009 drought, the report argues.


In 2009, a drought cost the Central Valley 7,500 jobs and led to 270,000 acres being left fallow — or just more than half the projected impact of this year’s drought. Now, farmers can try to make up for a lack of surface water by using groundwater, the report adds, but it won’t be enough and will have “substantial long-term costs” anyway.

Worse still, the report points out that “if another critically dry year occurs in 2015 the socioeconomic impacts will likely be much more severe.”

Robert Galbraith / Reuters

A sign at an intersection near Cantua Creek, Calif., on Feb. 14.

8. The report only looked at California’s Central Valley, though the economic impact of the drought will extend much further.


Monday’s report from UC Davis comes on the heels of earlier findings, released this month by Arizona State University, showing how the drought will drive up prices for foods like lettuce, tomatoes, and grapes. And of course the drought has been cited as a major contributing factor in the wildfires that plagued San Diego County last week.

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