While the rest of the country struggles with record cold, large snowfalls and more winter misery to come, California is facing a severe drought that may lead to the renewal of water rationing in the rich agricultural region of the Central Valley. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jim Carlton notes that record-low precipitation in California has also affected ski resorts, many of which are suffering from a lack of fresh powder to sustain the interest of tourists during the crucial winter season.
Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to declare a drought emergency early in the year. When he took office in 2011, he was able to celebrate high rainfall that filled the state’s reservoirs and blunted political conflicts over water usage, which often pit agricultural interests against environmental groups. The low rainfall means that some large municipal providers will only receive 5% of their requested allocation from state authorities, meaning that political conflicts could soon intensify.
Many of the fields used to grow fruits and vegetables in the Central Valley will lie value, with farmers concentrating on those crops that produce the highest profit for the least amount of water. Local unemployment in farming counties is expected to rise, as American consumers substitute foreign fruit and vegetable imports for California produce. Salmon stocks are also expected to suffer, as upstream breeding grounds disappear, according to the Journal.