Water Cutbacks Hurt California Farmers

Farmers along the Central Valley might feel the pinch of an unusually arid winter and California environmental regulations.

An unusually dry winter, combined with reoccurring droughts and increasing environmental regulation could hurt farmers across the state, threatening California’s halting economic recovery. The Central Valley is the 450-mile long and 50-mile wide heart of California’s agricultural sector. While agricultural production may not form the bulk of California’s nearly $2 trillion economy, it is a major segment of the GDP and a major employer.

The semi-arid climate of the Central Valley means that farmers have relied on water shipments and massive irrigation projects for years. However, recent weather patterns and environmental regulations have threatened Central Valley water supplies. Northern California water reserves are lower than usual, resource managers report. Mountain snowpack, vital to farmers planting spring crops, are at 49 percent of normal (compared to 139 percent as of last year).

In addition, recent environmental regulations are diverting water resources away from farms in the Central Valley. Recent environmental activism has pressured the state government to shift vital water supplies to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to protect endangered fish species.

Finally, farmers say that limited infrastructure is leading to dwindling water resources. Farmers say that the state has inadequate storages facilities, leaving many farmers vulnerable to fluctuating weather patterns and preventing them from storing water in wet years.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer