California has been in a severe state of drought for quite sometime. Matters have become so serious that Governor Jerry Brown has recently announced the largest mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history.
As cities and towns have been told to reduce their water usage by 25%, which comes on top of sacrifices that residents are already used to making, many are wondering how this widespread restriction will impact California’s vast and diverse agricultural sector, as well as the state’s overall economy. Gov. Brown has specified that the new restrictions target homeowners and businesses but not farmers. However, the effects of the water shortage and water saving measures are already resulting in major changes to life in the state, and could have further reaching effects.
High And Dry Across Local Borders
While California gets most of the drought headlines, lack of water in the western U.S. is having an impact on life in other states, Oregon, parts of Washington, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada are all experiencing the effects of below average water stores. In fact, much of the Colorado River Basin, an important source of water for major cities throughout the South West, has been in a state of drought for over ten years. Lacking snowpack and rainfall not only make it easier for wildfires to start and spiral out of control in vulnerable spots, water treatment itself could become more of a challenge in the region.
Less Water, Less Work In The Fields
Severe water rationing has already stressed many in the agricultural sector, resulting in thousands upon thousand of acres of once productive land now yielding nothing. Beyond produce and high demand crops like almonds, the rationing is hindering dairy and meat production, and forcing many farm and ranch workers to seek opportunities far from their fields and farms. Some who remain have even turned to groundwater drilling and started preparing for new restrictions that will target the agricultural sector in addition to private homeowners and businesses.
Drought Beyond The Golden State
Since water is needed to produce and sustain the many foods and agricultural essentials which California exports, the impact of the drought could start having greater effects in markets beyond the Golden State. Decreased economic opportunities could also strain recovery that has remained tenuous in some areas. California’s restrictions might also be seen an example of what other parts of the nation could conceivably be subjected to in the near future. Long term conditions ranging from abnormally dry to severe drought have been recorded throughout the Midwest, South, and even the Northeast. It’s very possible that those conditions could continue to worsen over the next few years.
A Picture Of National Preparation?
In considering California’s current state of drought, we may need to think about more than just rising prices of almonds and oranges; we might also want to consider what lacking access to water could look like in backyards, businesses, and agricultural lands beyond the west coast.
Are states where drought is a less common issue prepared to deal with a drier future as California is doing now?