Napa copes with Californian drought

23 April, 2015

The state of California is suffering its fourth year of severe drought. The governor has recently imposed the state's first mandatory water restrictions, affecting nearly 40 million people. Farmers, business owners, and residents will be forced to cut their usage by 25%.

The Sierra snowpack where the state reservoirs get the majority of their water throughout the summer, is at a record low – virtually nonexistent this year.

So how is California’s premier wine grape producing region coping? Patsy McGaughy, communications director  of the Napa Valley Vintners’ Association, told Drinks International: “There’s no question that many parts of California and many farmers will suffer terribly as a result. That said, things in Napa Valley are a bit different. While we don’t in any way want to downplay the severity of the state’s drought, we don’t rely on the Sierra snowpack for our water source. Our water comes primarily from groundwater, which in Napa County, especially on the valley floor, is in good shape. We also were very lucky to receive approximately 75% of normal precipitation for our water year so far, October 1-September 30.

“Furthermore, many vintners here are either using cutting-edge technology to reduce their water needs in the vineyard and some are moving toward more dry-farming types of techniques. Several of Napa Valley’s vintners also participate in our Napa Green Land & Winery environmental programmes which help reduce overall water consumption,” she said. 

Nevertheless, the association is concerned as to how the governor Jerry Brown’s mandated water reduction plan will affect agriculture in Napa Valley. The announcement was made on April 1 that there would be mandatory reductions of 25% enacted at California’s municipalities; how these plans will be put in place in Napa Valley has not yet been determined. The NVVA is also not clear on yet on the impact of the drought on water rights for those in Napa Valley who hold them. 

McGaughy said: “We are quite conscious and concerned about water use in general and are standing by to learn more about how the governor’s mandate may impact our industry in the immediate future.”

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