California drought could cost Central Valley $1.7 billion

California's largest agricultural region dealt heavy blow by drought

California’s leading agricultural region, the Central Valley, could lose $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs because of the state’s severe drought, according to preliminary results of a study released Monday by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Researchers estimate irrigated farms in the valley, which stretches from Kern County to Shasta County, will receive only one-third of their normal river water deliveries this year.

That will result in expensive groundwater pumping and the fallowing of 410,000 additional acres, or 6% of the Central Valley’s irrigated farmland, the study found.

The drought is already expected to raise the price of some fruits and vegetables, and many California ranchers have been forced to liquidate their herds because of withered pastures.

The UC Davis study is believed to be the first of its kind looking at the socioeconomic impact of this year’s drought. The study was co-funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“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 report’s lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.

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