Water Shortages Could Affect Wineries

Every year Southern California typically experiences water shortages and savage wild fires that burn out of control for weeks. In an effort to combat these dramatic occurrances, there is a new report by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) that recommends restricting wineries to using water from the Russian River that is commonly used to protect against frost.

A new study commissioned by the Williams Selyem winery finds that vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino counties would be most affected if this happens, and that it could cost the local economy up to $2 billion a year. This new study shows that as many as 8,000 jobs could be at stake if the water use restriction proposed by the SWRCB is passed. Tourism could be impacted, state and local taxes could drop, and the loss of business income could be ‘significant.’

The passing of the proposed water restrictions will force wineries to use more capital-intensive (and somewhat less effective) methods of frost control. In addition, frost damage to the vines could occur, which would damage production and threaten jobs.

The majority of the Sonoma and Mendocino county vineyards are small operators with fewer than 50 employees. Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission says: “This regulation risks putting some of these people out of business.”

The water restriction proposal was put forward by the SWRCB after there were two reports of fish stranded in the river due to low water levels. The water was lower than normal due to several winery owners pumping water at the same time to protect against frost.

Water shortages may be here to stay until we can eliminate waste and find more efficient ways to utilize our precious natural resources. New methods of frost protection that will positively impact the local economy and preserve the local water supply may provide a solution in the future. In the meantime, the SWRCB and local wineries are also in talks trying to find an alternative solution.



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