As snow and rainfall remains scarce in America’s south and central western states, there are many industries that are suffering. California’s diverse agricultural producers have been some of the hardest hit by increasingly limited water supply. From cheese to cotton, tomatoes to oranges, many of California’s signature crops and goods have been a lot more costly and challenging to produce.

However, dry skies and parched earth hasn’t affected all businesses equally. There’s one iconic California industry that’s actually found some favorable conditions in the region’s rough and resilient drought: wine.

Credit: Danny Molyneux

Relying On Drought Resistance
Grape growers and vineyard owners in Napa Valley are used to doing more with a lot less water. Even before mandatory water cutbacks had California farmers questioning how they could stay operational with limited irrigation, wine has typically been a dry business. Dry farming methods were long considered the best way to maintain a vineyard, not just in California, but in France and Spain as well.

Relying solely on the few dozen inches of water that annually fell on Napa County, many vineyards were able to produce a wide range of richer, flavorful wines that would become California’s third largest cash crop and perhaps its most drought resistant.  Some farmers report lack of rainfall has taken such a toll on other crops like tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, cotton and other “thirsty”  produce they have grown for generations, have now switched to more enduring fruits, vegetables, and nuts such as dragonfruit, pistachios, and—of course—wine grapes.

Putting Technology To Test And Practice
However, even California’s wine producers have to be conscious of the limited water they use, especially as the drought lingers on. As necessity breeds invention, some companies have found innovative ways to stretch their water supply using conservation and recycling techniques.

Rain capture systems and onsite water treatment technologies may soon be a big business in the region. Recapture methods that filter waste water into useful supply for irrigation, cleaning, bottling and other vineyard facilities are yielding impressive results in experimental capacities and may soon be used by commercial wineries.

Innovate As We Adapt
Though its not clear how long businesses and organizations will have to cope with the current drought, these conditions could become common in the foreseeable future. It’s certainly not too early to start using technology to overcome such challenges, while improving our ability to adapt tried and tested forms of agriculture, particularly in areas that rely them for prosperity and survival.

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