Update from the Pacific Institute California Drought Response Group – May 30

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For the latest updates about the California drought go to www.californiadrought.org

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This week in… Crops

This week we’ll cover what we know so far about this year’s progress of some of California’s major crops:

  • According to the USDA’s crop progress report, 95% percent of the rice crops are in fair to excellent condition, while 75% of the pasture and range land was rated as being in poor or very poor conditions. As a result, cattle are requiring supplemental feeding and nutrients, and many are being moved out of the state. Increased production costs and lower yields have resulted in alfalfa prices that are currently 50% higher than they were this time last year.
  • The 2014 California almond forecast came out on May 1st and is predicting a very good year for the industry. Although production is forecast to be down 2.5%, total bearing acreage in 2014 is predicted to continue upward, with a 24% increase from 2013. Although the report does not discuss water availability assumptions, it does note that, “water is a concern for many growers this year.” Forecasts for other crops were not available.
  • The USDA has also released California’s 2013 walnut acreage report. In 2013, walnut acreage and production were up 8.3% and 6.7%, respectively, from 2011. The 2013 grape acreage report also shows increases in production, with total grape acreage up 3.7% from 2012.
  • It is still unclear what the drought’s impact will be on California’s citrus crops. The majority of citrus is grown in the Friant Water Authority’s service area, which is not receiving water deliveries from Millerton Lake. As a result, farmers in this area must rely on more expensive groundwater or purchased water, or else let their orchards go unwatered.

In other News…

  • The USDA has designated the California Bay Delta (including the Central Valley) as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA). The CCA – under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program – connects businesses, non-profits, universities, and federal, state and local governments with agricultural and conservation groups to invest in innovative water and soil conservation projects. The overall goal of the California Bay Delta CCA is to promote water conservation, improve water quality and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Bay-Delta region.
    • The State Water Resources Control Board has ordered post-1914 water rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds to stop diversions. SWRCB has also established drought emergency minimum flow requirements in Mill, Deer, and Antelope Creeks.
    • The Friant Water Authority (FWA) had petitioned the courts to stop the flow of Millerton Lake water to contractors with pre-1914 water rights, pending the outcome of their lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation to resume deliveries to FWA contractors on the east side of the valley. However, the U.S. District Court in Fresno has refused, and deliveries to the exchange contractors will continue. 

California Drought Status

Temperature

Average temperatures in most of northern California and parts of southern California have been higher than average this past week.

Precipitation

Precipitation this past week and month has been lower than the historical average for most of the state, with particularly dry areas in the north and unseasonably wet areas in the Tulare Lake basin.

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 Snowpack

California snowpack is currently 3% of what’s normal for May 29th and 1% of the April 1st average. According to the 28 automatic snow sensors in the Southern Sierra, there is no more snow in the that area.

Reservoir Conditions

Reservoir conditions haven’t changed much since last week. Statewide, California’s major reservoirs are at about 48% of total capacity and 62% of normal.