New Study’s Unexpected Findings: Impact of CA’s Drought Severely Felt by Energy Sector, Not Agriculture

This year’s exceptionally wet weather has brought the multi-year drought, that has been plaguing California for over three years, to a close. A new study released by the Pacific Institute last week, “Impacts of the 2007-2009 California Drought: What Really Happened?”, analyzes drought impacts to three water sensitive sectors: agricultural production, energy production and ecosystem health. The report found the drought cost consumers up to $1.7 billion to replace lost hydropower with natural gas (adding 13 million tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere), led to the cancellation of two commercial salmon seasons, but most surprisingly had little effect on the state’s overall farm production. 

Researcher’s found, despite the intense media and political attention focused on plight ofCalifornia’s agricultural industry in the midst of a drought, they actually fared much better during the crisis as was portrayed in press coverage. Some areas of the state did burden losses in revenue and jobs due to water shortage, but overall, the report found, “California’s 81,500 farms and ranches grossed $34.8 billion in revenue in 2009 – the third highest year on record and just below the all-time high of $38.4 billion in 2008, the second driest year of the drought.” Farmers were able to adapt to reduced contractual water supply by increasing reliance on groundwater, temporary water transfers, and fallowing, shifting and/or changing crops patterns. The report cautions the methods employed to cope with the drought will not be sustainable in the future.

To read the full report click here.