The Drought’s Effect on California Agriculture

Written by Sasha Reva

California’s agricultural industry is being very impacted by the drought this year. Both of the water agencies, state and federal, are cutting deliveries to lots of farmers to zero, when some of the people still have access to water due to water rights that go back almost a century.

Farmers are trying to fight the shortages in three different ways such as suspending cultivation of fields, drilling new wells and buying water from people who have it.

Few weeks ago, the State Department of Water Resources rejected the underground water management plans of four San Joaquin Valley agencies, including the huge Westlands Water District. They believe that the state will be aggressive in enforcing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. “We’re not going to accept a plan to do a plan,” deputy director for the California Department of Water Resources said. “We’re looking for very concrete, measurable changes to address these deficiencies.”

“I could work seven days a week if I wanted to,” Fresno County well driller Wesley Harmon  said. “In my area, everybody’s pumping. You can’t blame the farmers. They’re trying to make a living, they’re trying to grow food for everybody.”

The drought is the biggest reason for drilling hundreds of new wells that sometimes lead to the collapse of land above. It’s more profitable for farmers to sell water than use it for growing, with prices surging to over $1,000 for an acre-foot (about 326,000 gallons). The business of selling water is growing so much that a recently published article by GV Wire, an affiliate of SJV Water a San Joaquin Valley news site, said that multi-million dollar water sales forced small farmers to build water wells on their land to compete with large agribusiness. 

The drought is one of the biggest issues in California right now, and if we won’t do anything, that will become even more intense.

Photo Cred: Noah Berger/ AP