SACRAMENTO — California’s drought will cost the state’s agricultural economy an estimated $1.7 billion this year and leave some 14,500 farmworkers without jobs, says a preliminary study released Monday by the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences.
The study was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and used computer models and recent water delivery figures to arrive at its conclusions.
Central Valley farmers expect 1/3 less irrigation water in a state that leads the nation in the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The report estimates 6 percent of farmland in the Central Valley — or 410,000 acres — could go unplanted because of cuts in water deliveries. A more detailed report is due out this summer.
“We wanted to provide a foundation for state agricultural and water policymakers to understand the impacts of the drought on farmers and farm communities,” said the study’s lead author, Richard Howitt, a US Davis professor emeritus of agriculture and resource economics.
With less river water available for irrigating crops, the report says that farmers will pump more ground water, which will cost an estimated $450 million but still leave them short of supplies.
The communities hardest hit by the drought lie in the San Joaquin and Central Valley, the report says.
UC Davis’ Jay Lund, a co-author of the study, said he expects the drought to create hardships on farmers, their communities and the environment, but California’s overall economy shouldn’t be threatened. He said agriculture makes up less than 3 percent of California’s $1.9 trillion gross domestic product annually.