Drought: California’s Impending Economic Crisis

If money grew on trees, California would still be in trouble. The agriculture intensive state is facing its third year of drought, experts report. According to Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor of resource economics, at least 40,000 jobs and $1.15 billion in income stand to disappear if California remains dry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics already lists California as one of the top five most unemployed states in the nation. Add to that the fact that the population has grown by 10 million people since the last drought in the early 1990s. Can a dwindling supply meet such burgeoning demand?

The Department of Water Resources predicts that water contracters will only receive 15 percent of their traditionally allocated supply. Now, even that number seems optimistic to some. “Our worst fears appear to be materializing. It’s going to be a huge challenge,” Wendy Martin, the DWR’s drought coordinator, told the Sacramento Bee.

Every crisis requires coping strategies, but those with significant experience in water worry that the state has become increasingly inflexible and hence unable to deal with the impending drought. With the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem on the brink of collapse, officials remain wary to exploit the region’s collection of water any further.

Experts predict that the crisis will not only affect the farming sector, but business owners and residents as well. “The public needs to tighten their belts,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “You have to rearrange all the molecules in your brain to think about using water differently.”

Read more here.

Sources: The Sacramento Bee, Department of Labor Statistics

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