California’s lack of rainfall is major threat to winemakers in 2014

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California Drought

California Drought

California Drought

2013 marked one of the driest year’s on record in California, with cities like San Francisco reporting the driest year since 1849, when annual rainfall totals first started being recorded.  Los Angeles similarly, reported only receiving 3.6 inches of rain in total for 2013, well below the average of 14 inches. This could be catastrophic for agriculture and wine producers should conditions not change in the near future.

A drought has not officially been declared in the Golden State despite the US Drought Monitor reporting 94.25% of the state is enduring some level of drought conditions.  However, The California Department of Water Resources yesterday announced it was drafting an emergency drought declaration for Governor Jerry Brown to sign within a couple of weeks.

This comes on the heels of the latest US snow survey, which was conducted on January 3, which helps evaluate the amount of water likely to be available for key agricultural areas once the snow melts. It is a key factor in water resource planning.  The Sierra Nevada Mountain range was surveyed last week, as it is the snow pack that helps supply the Napa Valley watershed, among other regions.

This year’s lack of water follows two dry years, which have left many reservoirs in California depleted. If conditions don’t improve mandatory water restrictions will most likely be enforced from the beginning of February across the state.

Mendocino County supervisors, another wine producing area north of Napa County, after a unanimous vote, yesterday, declared a drought emergency which can cause an “imminent threat of disaster” to the region.

According to state water managers, it can only supply 5% of the water sought by municipalities and the million acres farmland in state should they need to supply water to all that need it if the current dry weather conditions persist.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Histrionics: should be the title of this article. I'm not sure what narrative you're following, but sorry to say the facts really don't support the supposition you're attempting to make.

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  • Water from the Sierra Nevada does not supply irrigation water for vineyards in the Napa Valley. It does supply a portion of the domestic water supply for residents of the cities in Napa County

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  • Agreed. I certainly did not intend to imply that the Sierra Nevada snow pack was the only source of water to Napa- which is by no means the only wine producing region in California either- and I do apologize if that wasn't clear. From the research I did and I am definitely not a water sourcing expert, I found that what you said is absolutely true, water is not directly supplied by Sierra Nevada snowpack to vineyards. The water supply in the area comes from several different sources, including local sources, such as Lake Henessey and Yountville-Rector Resvoir, just to name a few. However, the region is also supplied by water through the State Water Project, more specifically, through the North Bay Aquaduct- which is supplied through Sacramento and the Baker Slough, which is impacted by the Sierra Nevada snow pack levels. Additionally, water in the area comes from local recycled water projects as well.

    As the upstream (no pun intended) sources are impacted, there may be trickle down consequence to the area as each of the sources begin restricting water allocations and mandatory conservation efforts go into effect. Again this what I found with some research I did prior to writing it, but I do agree with you it is not a direct source of vineyard irrigation to the County of Napa.

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  • Even in the face of rationing, there is no infrastructure in place to use either additional surface water sources or groundwater for domestic purposes. However, as you mention briefly, the use of recycled water is increasing and will play an increasing role in areas near potential sources.

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