San Diego Farmers Bracing For A Tough Year
San Diego farmers are facing a triple threat: rainfall is three inches below average, water prices have skyrocketed, and the state’s snowpack is 52 percent of normal.
San Diego County Farm Bureau Chief Eric Larson said dry conditions mean farmers will have to use more water, which will raise their costs and cut into their profits.
"I expect that we’ll have more farmers go out of business," said Larson, "because they’ve had to spend more money on purchasing water this year and didn’t get the rainfall they had hoped for, and it may be just enough to push them over the top."
Larson said water prices have more than doubled over the past decade. Farmers pay between $1,000 and $1,800 per acre foot.
Larson said he's not expecting water supply cutbacks this year because of sufficient local reservoir storage. But San Diego water officials have warned the region is a dry year a way from having to tighten its belt.
"Unfortunately if we have a couple of these very dry winters in a row I would expect all of us should be seeing some reductions in water," said Larson.
San Diego County will have a new source of water come 2016, when a $1 billion Carlsbad seawater desalination plant is completed. San Diego County Water Authority Board approved a contract in November to purchase all of the plant's output -- which is expected to add 7 percent to the region’s supply. Construction on the project began last week.
Larson said the plant will help by bringing in water during times of drought and shortages, but at a cost.
"Unfortunately for the farmers, desal water is very expensive," said Larson. "It will end up being a net increase for water pricing in San Diego County. So even though the desal is going to help us with reliability, there is a cost involved with that, and that will have a direct impact on the farmers."
Dry conditions are expected to continue in California and the Southwest this spring and summer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).