How much financial toll will California’s drought disaster impose?

When we go to the supermarket or to a restaurant, we often neglect to think about the individual cost of each component in the food and beverages we buy. But recent media attention has shined a light to the rising costs of one component key to the production of nearly every product we consume: water. The fact that we’re running out of water is alarming, and costing California’s agricultural industry and its consumers significantly.

The current drought in California will cost $2.2 billion and 17,000 jobs by 2016.

In an article published last week by Amanda Hinds Doyle in Siskiyou Daily News, Dr. Richard Howitt of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science said, “The current drought, ranking third most severe on record, is responsible for the greatest water loss in California, with a loss of 6.5 million acre-feet (212 billion gallons).” This means less water will be available to farmers, ranchers and consumers across the state, driving up the price of water for everyone. Eventually, the costs of food will also hike up, devastating several sectors of the economy – including jobs.

An analysis of Dr. Howitt’s report, done by Mary Beth Griggs at Smithsonian Online Magazine, reports that “the amount of river water available to farms in parts of California is down by a third, while agriculture consumes nearly 80 percent of all water drawn from natural sources like rivers, lakes and groundwater.

It will be only a matter of time before consumers see a price increase at the grocery store or at their favorite restaurant. Typically, it takes prices skyrocketing before the public begins to think about where our food comes from and how it is produced.