Severe California drought imperils crops, could raise melon, lettuce prices

Articles
February 04, 2009

Severe California drought imperils crops, could raise melon, lettuce prices

The worst drought in nearly two decades is imperiling California farmers, who provide most of the nation’s fruits and vegetables in routine years. That includes nearly every cantaloupe we eat in summer, and most of the lettuce we consume in spring and fall. Central Valley growers are starting to abandon fields so they can channel whatever water they get to save their almond trees. They’re also spending heavily to drill down hundreds of feet to find new water sources. If rainfall stays sparse, well water could become the primary water source for crops. Federal reservoirs here, in the United States’ largest farming state, remain at their lowest levels since 1992, the Associated Press report said. To make matters worse, a dry spring is forecast, and little relief if any is in sight. Court decisions favoring environmental groups have “cut back water allocations that flow through a freshwater estuary called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the main conduit that sends water to nearly two-thirds of Californians,” AP described. “Environmental groups and federal scientists say the delta’s massive pumps are one of the factors pushing a native fish to the brink of extinction.”

The worst drought in nearly two decades is imperiling California farmers, who provide most of the nation’s fruits and vegetables in routine years. That includes nearly every cantaloupe we eat in summer, and most of the lettuce we consume in spring and fall.

Central Valley growers are starting to abandon fields so they can channel whatever water they get to save their almond trees. They’re also spending heavily to drill down hundreds of feet to find new water sources. If rainfall stays sparse, well water could become the primary water source for crops.

Federal reservoirs here, in the United States’ largest farming state, remain at their lowest levels since 1992, the Associated Press report said. To make matters worse, a dry spring is forecast, and little relief if any is in sight.

Court decisions favoring environmental groups have “cut back water allocations that flow through a freshwater estuary called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the main conduit that sends water to nearly two-thirds of Californians,” AP described. “Environmental groups and federal scientists say the delta’s massive pumps are one of the factors pushing a native fish to the brink of extinction.”

As a result, federal water deliveries were 40% of normal allocations in 2008, which caused the loss of more than $300 million in crops statewide.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will determine this year’s rate of federal water supplies later this month, according to AP. But with a new state survey showing the population of the threatened fish “is at its lowest point in 42 years,” the outlook for federal water looks grim.