Sarah Gonsier

Date of Award



Environmental Science


John Van Buren


The severe and prolonged drought in California throughout the past three years has had significant effects on the state’s agricultural industry. The wine industry is no exception. The long terms effects of such a severe drought could be devastating economically for the industry and environmentally for wine-growing regions. This thesis explores both the short-term and long-term effects of the drought on the wine industry in northern California. Quantitative data from the federal government on drought conditions and climate change statistics from the National Academy of Sciences illustrate the depth of the situation. Statistics from the Wine Institute and the National Academy of Sciences provide a complete understanding of the wine industry’s ecological footprint and how grapes are grown. This thesis examines the history of drought and viticulture in California as well as the effect of previous droughts on vineyards compared to the current situation. This thesis outlines the role both environmental and classic economics play in the wine industry. Not to mention the fascinating politics behind water distribution in California as well as the lesser-known politics of the wine industry. This thesis explores the ways in which the wine industry can adapt to the long-term effects of a drought in a sustainable way. The combined historical, economic and political perspectives of the drought provide a comprehensive look at the need for more sustainable viticulture practices in the region.