Nearly 75% of California is experiencing extreme drought conditions and more than a quarter of the state is under exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor,
Temperatures in California have ranged as high as 6 degrees above the daily normal average, the Drought Monitor said. The California Department of Water Resources reported Monday that many of the state’s 1,500 reservoirs are at less than 50% capacity.
San Joaquin County is one of the regions experiencing exceptional drought conditions, and Camanche Reservoir, one of the county’s main sources of water, is at 47% capacity.
For Susan Tipton, owner of Acquiesce Winery in Acampo, the drought has caused a 25% reduction in the vineyard crop yield.
In 2019, the winery produced 4,000 cases of grapes, she said. Last year, with absolutely no rain in February, a prime month for water, the winery only produced 3,000 cases.
“What happened was the lack of water reduced the size of the berries,” Tipton said. “And that reduced the tonnage we normally produce, as well as the amount of wine. But it was actually a good year as far as quality goes.”
Tipton attributes part of the drought to climate change, noting that average temperatures have increased by as much as 3 degrees over the last 30 years, and said it was optimistic to think the state’s drought situation would change drastically for the better.
But she isn’t sitting by idly.
Tipton has recently allowed UC Davis use one acre of her 18-acre vineyard in a study to determine the future of grapes as temperatures continue to rise.
“They’re looking at doing something in the fall,” she said. “So we’re taking out grapes, and they are going to be planting 50 different variants of grapes with different root stages to figure out what kinds of grapes will be around.”
The Acquiesce vineyard is just one of many around the world that will be included in the study, Tipton said. Vineyards in Europe, Australia and Africa will also be examined.
The beginning of the water year begins in late September, and according to the Drought Monitor, nearly 13% of the state was under exceptional drought conditions. About 85% of the state was abnormally dry at that time.
One year ago, nearly 42% of the state saw no drought conditions and only about 3% was experiencing extreme drought.
Tipton said the Lodi appellation was fortunate to have aquifers from which the growers take water for irrigation.
But in Southern California, she said they can dry up if not used or replenished, like what is happening there now.
She added that many area growers are following Lodi Rules guidelines for irrigation during the drought, including monitoring water use, planting cover crops and watering vines a few weeks prior to budbreak.
“We have to go forward and hope for the best,” she said. “We’d all like more rain in January and February, but this is part of climate change. We have to all pay attention. It’s not just a problem locally, but globally.”