Drought Impact Report

groundwater transfer station in California's San Joaquin County

Water availability is now only one third of normal for California crops

UC Davis scientists released an extensive forecast of the drought’s worsening impact on California agriculture at a news conference in Washington D.C., July 15, 2014.

WATCH and LISTEN: Audio and Video of National Press Club news conference featuring study authors UC Davis agricultural economist Richard Howitt and Center for Watershed Sciences director Jay Lund, along with Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

Key findings:

  • The 2014 drought is responsible for the greatest reduction in water availability for California agriculture ever seen, about one third less than normal.
  • The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion.
  • The loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture represents 3.8 percent of farm unemployment.
  • 428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California due to the drought.
  • The Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent, in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.
  • Agriculture on the Central Coast and in Southern California will be less affected by this year's drought, with about 19,150 acres fallowed, $10 million in lost crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional pumping costs.
  • Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues.
  • The drought is likely to continue through 2015, regardless of El Niño conditions.
  • Consumer food prices will be largely unaffected. Higher prices at the grocery store of high-value California crops like nuts, wine grapes and dairy foods are driven more by market demand than by the drought.
  • Groundwater management in California is a "slow motion train wreck."