Many agriculture jobs at risk amid drought in Central California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new study shows thousands of jobs could be at risk due to uncertain water supplies for Central California farmers.

Making matters worse, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 59-percent of normal for this time of year.

"We can't move this to Missouri or Iowa, it's got to happen here. The big wild card in all of this is the availability in water, but I think it's something we can solve," says economist Michael Shires.

The report suggests the Central California water supply could be reaching a tipping point.

Many growers in Fresno and Kings County rely on the Westlands Water District to deliver their water.

The economic activity inside the Westlands is responsible for more than $4.7 billion and represents 35,000 jobs across the region.

"As we look ahead, we clearly need to have a water policy that sets aside some aspect of a reliable water supply so these jobs and this ag production can continue to exist," Shires said.

If the region is forced to reduce ag production because of a lack of water, officials say it will have far reaching effects.

"We're not just talking about of course our local economy, which is incredibly important, we're talking about nationwide implications. When we're talking about food security, national security, it's really important that we're able to grow our own food and we can't grow food without water," Westlands spokesperson Elizabeth Jonasson said.

Without late-season storms or a creative resolution to the water crisis, farmers could be forced to make some difficult decisions.

Officials worry another dry year will cause a 5% to 10% reduction in crop land plantings.

"What often happens is we get bailed out by a good water year and we say we can worry about that next year. We've gotten to the point to stop thinking like that and get serious about what we need to do with water," Shires said.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.