On the week California released its action plan to address the ongoing drought, top climate scientists from California, Nevada and Arizona cautioned that what growers in the Salinas Valley and throughout the west are experiencing now could be the “new norm.”

Certainly a severe, sustained drought would be ruinous to many facets of California’s way of life — environmental, social, economic — but the toll it would take on agriculture cannot be understated. 

Without rain, groundwater in the Salinas Valley basin will not be recharged, forcing growers to drill deeper into aquifers at a much higher cost and a decline in water quality. Overdrafting of wells more than they are now would exacerbate seawater intrusion already plaguing Monterey County. And farmers forced to switch from lucrative specialty vegetables to far less profitable drought-resistant crops or dry farming would have an economic ripple throughout the region.