San Joaquin Valley dairy areas were among the very hardest hit.
by Dennis Halladay, Hoard's Dairyman Western Editor
When it rained, it didn't pour in California last year.
As a result, the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) has officially declared 2013 the driest year since records began being kept in 1895. The announcement came after the season's final snow survey on May 1, which found the state's snowpack water content to be just 18 percent of normal.
According to the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC), California's total average statewide precipitation in 2013 was 7.0 inches. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the 30-year average from 1971 to 2000 was 22.2 inches.
Different parts of the state, of course, vary tremendously in terms of what normal precipitation is and illustrate how severe the magnitude is of the state's ongoing drought.
In the Sonoran desert region, in the extreme southeastern part of the state adjacent to Arizona and Mexico, precipitation in 2013 was normal (4.4 inches). But everywhere else it ranged from below normal to disastrously below normal.
First and foremost in the disastrous category was the San Joaquin Valley region, the biggest agricultural production area in the U.S. that supplies about 25 percent of all table food in the country, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
According to WRCC, total precipitation in the San Joaquin Valley region in 2013 was 2.9 inches the lowest ever recorded. The previous low was 4.5 inches in 1947. By comparison, total precipitation in the Mojave Desert region in 2013 was 2.7 inches.
Next door to the north, the Sacramento-Delta region had only 5.1 inches of total precipitation, also the lowest ever recorded by a huge margin.
Extreme drought in those two farming breadbaskets figures to have a huge impact on both dairies and anyone who grows feed for them, since they are home to seven of the 10 largest milk-producing counties in the country.
Farmers in these regions have already been forced to make tough decisions about which acres will be planted and which ones won't, since deliveries under State Water Project allocation have been slashed to just 5 percent for the rest of the year.
The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 37 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.
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