The ongoing California drought may hinder economic growth in Southern California for years to come. A UCLA-Anderson forecast this week revealed that the dry conditions could diminish the fishing and manufacturing sectors statewide, with Los Angeles County still recording no job growth…as it has for the past 23 years.
L.A. County is in last place among the 32 largest metro areas in the U.S. when it comes to job growth. In terms of seafood, the large freshwater fish hatcheries and farms in Northern California have been hit hard by the drought because the now precious amounts of water have had to be redirected to farms, orchards and pastures. The past 12 months have been the driest ever in California; the report findings are based on whether the drought is “normal” or the beginning of a “long arid period.” California’s employment could be suppressed by about 0.2 percent during the next few years of the drought, the report concluded.
“If the drought is like the ones we had before, which are plentiful in California, then the data suggests it’s not a big deal economically,” said Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA-Anderson forecast. “If this really is climate change,” Leamer offered, “then that’s a completely different story.” All economists participating in the study expect that the state’s economy will continue to grow, albeit at a very slow pace.
More bad news resulting from the drought was released in a report Tuesday from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) which said the late-season storms only slightly boosted the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas which remains far below normal as the spring melt fast approaches.
“This is dismal news for farms and cities that normally depend on the snowpack—often called California’s largest reservior—for a third of their water,” the report stated. “Coupled with this winter’s scant rainfall, the meager snowpack—containing only 32 percent of average water content for the date—promises a gloomy summer for California farms and many communities.”
Surveyors from the DWR this week flew over the snowpack in the northern, central and southern Sierra to measure the amount of snow and found far too little to make a dent in the drought to bring relief to farmers. April is the most important month to measure the peak amount of snowpack; in January, the water content was only 12 percent of normal, the lowest snowpack on record.
“We’re already seeing farmland fallowed and cities scrambling for water supplies,” said DWR director Mark Cowin. “We can hope that conditions improve, but time is running out, and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.” According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor—a federal website that tracks drought—99.8 percent of California is in a drought, with more than 23 percent of the state in an “exceptional” drought which is the worst category.
DWR surveyors on Tuesday tabulated a mere 7.1 inches of water, representing only one-fourth of the normal level. California has 99 new electronic snow stations that provide real-time results, using so-called “collection plates” that can be monitored from a distance. These electronic findings were matched by rain gauges which showed that the average March rainfall at eight stations was only half of the usual average for the season.