top of page

California Water Crisis

Governor Brown declared a drought emergency in California on January 17th and 'redodoubled' efforts on April 25th. All Californians are asked to voluntarily reduce water use to conserve what little resources remain after two prior years of low rainfall totals across the state.

The order issued by the Governor includes the following executive actions:

  • Directs State Water Resouces Control Board to expiditiously process all water transfer requests

  • Require that all state agencies that distribute fuding for projects that impact water resources, including groundwater, require recipients to have conservation and efficiency programs in place

  • Directs Fish & Wildlife to implement a number of monitoring and restoration programs to protect endangerd fish species

  • Adopt general waste discharge requirements through State Water Resources Control Board that facilite the use of treated waste water

  • Authorize Cal Fire to prepare for an early wildfire season

  • Suspend specific elements of CEQA for water resouce management and water transfers


On July 15th, UC Davis issued a report listing impacts of the drought on California's agricultural sector:

  • Direct costs to agriculture total $1.5 billion (revenue losses of $1 billion and $0.5 billion in additional pumping costs). This net revenue loss is about 3 percent of the state’s total agricultural value.

  • The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion.

  • The loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture represents 3.8 percent of farm unemployment.

  • 428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California due to the drought.

  • The Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $800 million in crop revenue and $447 million in additional well-pumping costs.

  • Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues.

  • Agriculture on the Central Coast and in Southern California will be less affected by this year’s drought, with about 19,150 acres fallowed, $10 million in lost crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional pumping costs.

  • Statewide dairy and livestock losses from reduced pasture and higher hay and silage costs represent $203 million in revenue losses.

  • The drought is likely to continue through 2015, regardless of El Niño conditions

With rainfall this year at historically low levels and reservoirs quickly dwindling, California officials on July 16th approved the most drastic measures yet to reduce water consumption during the state’s increasingly serious drought, including fines of up to $500 per day under some circumstances for watering a garden where water runs off onto hard surfaces, washing a car without a shutoff nozzle, or hosing down a sidewalk or driveway.

The new measures come in response to an apathetic public that has ignored repeated pleas to save water since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January. Though the governor asked all Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, water use actually increased by 1 percent statewide in May, according to a state survey released Tuesday.  A reduction in water use in Northern California was offset by an increase in use in Southern California, yielding the 1% increase in total water use statewide.

“People really don’t understand the gravity of the drought, particularly in urban California, where people are hundreds of miles from their water source,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted on Tuesday to impose the new regulations, expected to take effect around Aug. 1st.

On April 7th, USDA announced that farmers and ranchers can sign-up for disaster assistance programs, reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, beginning April 15, 2014. Quick implementation of the programs has been a top priority for USDA.

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014 (see addtional information further down this page, including link).

Enrollment also began on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

  • LIP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible livestock includes beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, and other livestock as determined by the Secretary.

  • LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on publicly managed land. An eligible livestock producer must own, cash lease, or be a contract grower of eligible livestock during the 60 calendar days before the beginning date of the qualifying drought or fire in a county that is rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as D2, D3, or D4.

  • ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.

  • TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees have worked exceptionally hard over the past two months to ensure eligible farmers and ranchers would be able to enroll to receive disaster relief on April 15.

To expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

USDA has 2014 Farm Bill livestock disaster assistance programs available for application since April 2014.  Ranchers and cattlemen can apply for losses in 2014 and also for losses that occurred in 2012 and 2013.  Livestock producers could potentially receive up to $100 million for 2014 losses and $50 million for losses in the prior two years.  Documentation required: the number and kind of livestock deaths, costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or new pastures, feed purchases if supplies of grazing pastures are destroyed.  More info can be obtained on the USDA website here.

On February 11th, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed to allow Pacific Gas & Electric to delay the termination of two rate schedules which would have required Ag customers to choose from other available Ag rate schedules.  Elemination of these rate schedules at this time could have exacerbated the effect of water shortages during the drought; farmers and ranchers will have more flexibility in when they can water crops and orchards due to this delay (termination is now scheduled for March 15, 2015).

Pacific Gas & Electric has a webpage offering resources for farmers and ranchers to help with the costs of power usage ... click here for more information on their Money Back Solutions.

As more information and drought resources are made available, they will be posted on this page. 
Information adapted from Monterey County Farm Bureau. 

Last Update 11/25/2014

bottom of page