FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A research team from UC Merced studying the California drought found conditions between 2020-2022 to be warmer than previous dry periods.
They told the CDFA board meeting in Sacramento that heat waves and stress led to large crop losses.
Their drought assessment revealed a 2022 water shortage in the Valley of 2.6 million acre-feet, which resulted in 695,000 idle acres of farmland.
"This comes at a cost of $1.7 billion in crop losses, or $1.4 billion in the Central Valley," says UC Merced Environmental Engineering Professor Josue Medellin- Azuara.
Fresno County farmer Don Cameron is a pioneer in the drought-fighting practice of flooding farmland during wet years to recharge the underground aquifer.
He is now president of the CDFA board.
"It's a slow-motion disaster," he said. "It's not like when we have a flood come through, it's very evident and it catches everyone's attention, but how do we really protect the growers, the community," he said.
The goal is to adapt strategies to develop a more drought-resilient ag economy.
More pressures are being placed on the underground aquifer.
The drought assessment also showed a 45% increase in groundwater pumping this year compared to 2019.