- significantly reduced subsidies for flood insurance
- stronger requirements to purchase insurance
- limitations on new development in flood plains
- requiring flood-proofing investments
Similarly, high fire hazard areas have seen changes to regulations; including stricter building codes, increased fees, and changes to insurance that add costs to living in fire hazard areas and are unpopular in these areas.
Today, California is facing the prospect of substantial drought impacts on the agriculture economy for the second time in five years. These severe drought events are predictable, occurring at least once per decade and they have a significant economic and human toll on the areas where drought impacts are most concentrated in California, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
And similar to historical policy towards flood zones, historical water policies such as the Central Valley Project have encouraged increased investment and growth of vulnerable populations in areas where the risk of drought are greatest (see chart below). Similar to the treatment of floodplains, is it time to think of policy changes to reduce the economic risk and suffering from future droughts? Climate and water experts predict these shortages may become more common with climate change. Here are a few initial ideas for reducing economic risk in "drought zones":
- Restrictions on investment in permanent crops that harden demand for water (I once heard a fisherman call this tree limits, similar to catch limits and regulations governing fisheries)
- Mandatory contributions of farmers in these areas to social insurance funds that are tapped to help unemployed workers and local communities in drought years. This would reduce economic risk of drought-induced fallowing in two ways, 1) direct assistance to individuals affected by drought-induced unemployment, and 2) encourage the cultivation of less labor-intensive crops or the introduction of more capital-intensive and less labor-intensive production methods.
- If not mandatory, policies could reduce subsidies for farms that do not participate in voluntary drought-risk reduction programs, just as the CVP has a higher full cost rate for water for some farms that exceed acreage limits.
Postscript: Unemployment rates on the west-side of the San Joaquin Valley since the Central Valley Project began delivering water to the region in 1968.