尽管干旱天气加剧了这个问题，但农民的水灾并不完全与干旱有关。几项法院判决削减了流经萨克拉曼多-圣华金河三角洲（Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta）的淡水河口的水量，这是向约三分之二的加利福尼亚人供水的主要管道，因此，作物和城市的供水也受到限制。环保组织和联邦科学家说，三角洲的巨大水泵是将本土鱼类推向灭绝边缘的因素之一。
Last year, federal water deliveries were just 40 percent of the normal allocations, fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres and causing nearly $309 million in crop losses statewide. That prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue a disaster declaration, ordering state water managers to expedite any requests to move water around the state, in part so high-value crops like wine grapes, almonds and pistachio trees would stand a chance of surviving. Federal reservoirs are now at their lowest level since 1992.
With such a grim outlook, many California farmers including Giacone are investing millions to drill down hundreds of feet in search of new water sources. Depending on how much it rains this winter, federal water supplies could be slashed down to nothing this year, forcing farmers to rely solely on brackish well water. But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation won’t make an official decision until late February, said Ron Milligan, the agency’s Central Valley operations manager. The state Department of Water Resources, which also ships farmers water, has promised to deliver 15 percent of the normal allocations in October, but conditions are so dire that that’s now in doubt, too.
“The consequences are expected to be pretty horrible in terms of farmers’ revenue, but what’s really disconcerting are the possible job losses,” said Wendy Martin, who leads the agency’s drought division. “Those communities that can least weather an economic downturn are going to be some of the places that are hit the hardest.” Richard Howitt, a professor of agriculture economics at the University of California, Davis, estimates that $1.6 billion in agriculture-related wages, and as many as 60,000 jobs across the valley will be lost in the coming months due to dwindling water.
Analysts haven’t yet provided any estimates of crop losses this year. But Bill Diedrich, an almond grower on the valley’s parched western edge, said he’s already worried he may lose some of his nut trees in the drought. “The real story here is food security,” Diedrich told Milligan and other officials speaking at a conference in Reno, Nev. “It’s an absolute emergency and anything to get water flowing quickly is needed.”