Central Valley water shortage may cost $175 Million in crop losses

July 22, 2008 5:06am

•  Could mean loss of 700 jobs says study

•  ‘A triple whammy of water reductions this year’

Cutbacks in water deliveries to farmers in the Westlands Water District of the Central Valley during the peak of this year’s irrigation season are likely to cost workers and businesses in the region $84.6 million in reduced economic activity plus an estimated $33.9 million loss in farm income, according to a new study done for the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.

The numbers translate into more than 700 jobs lost and an overall reduction in regional payrolls and proprietor income totaling $24.2 million, the study says.

The projections are part of the report prepared by two researchers with Berkeley Economic Consulting: David Sunding, a professor in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley; and David Mitchell, an economist with the consulting company M Cubed. Mr. Sunding also serves as co-director of the Berkeley Water Center at the University of California.

“Westlands has been hit by a triple whammy of water reductions this year,” says Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District. “First, there’s the drought that has persisted in California for the last two years. Those natural reductions in water supply were compounded by a court decree that sent 650,000 acre-feet of the state’s freshwater supplies floating out into the ocean in an effort to help Delta smelt.”

The third blow, he says, was a decision by the Bureau of Reclamation to require rationing of the reduced water deliveries it is making in June, July and August, because of a dry spring.

The researchers say they prepared their projections using a monthly agricultural production and regional impact model that is used by the California Department of Water Resources to analyze temporary disruptions of Central Valley Project and State Water Project water deliveries from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta.

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