The US Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the year and finds insufficient stock is available in California to release irrigation water for farmers. This is the first time in the 54 year history of the State Water Project. "If it's not there, it's just not there," notes a Water Authority director adding that it's going to be tough to find enough water, but farmers are hit hardest as "they're all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they're going to get through this." Fields will go unplanted (supply lower mean food prices higher), or farmers will pay top dollar for water that's on the market (and those costs can only be passed on via higher food prices).
Federal officials announced Friday that many California
farmers caught in the state's drought can expect to receive no
irrigation water this year from a vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs interlacing the state.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the
year, saying that the agency will continue to monitor rain and snow
fall, but the grim levels so far prove that the state is in the throes
of one of its driest periods in recorded history.
Unless the year turns wet, many farmers can expect to receive no water from the federally run Central Valley Project.
... the state's snowpack is at 29 percent of average for this time of year.
California officials who manage the State Water Project, the state's
other major water system, have already said they won't be releasing any
water for farmers, marking a first in its 54-year history.
"They're all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they're going to get through this,"
Holman said, adding that Westland's 700 farmers will choose to leave
fields unplanted, draw water from wells or pay top dollar for water
that's on the market.
Farmers are hit hardest, but they're not alone. Contractors
that provide cities with water can expect to receive half of their
usual amount, the Bureau said, and wildlife refuges that need water
flows in rivers to protect endangered fish will receive 40 percent of
their contracted supply.
Contractors that provide farmers with water and hold historic
agreements giving them senior rights will receive 40 percent of their
normal supplies. Some contracts date back over a century and guarantee that farmers will receive at least 75 percent of their water.
One of those is the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water
Authority in Los Banos that provides irrigation for 240,000 acres of
The Water Authority's executive director Steve Chedester said farmers
he serves understand that the reality of California's drought means it's going to be tough to find enough water for them. "They're taking a very practical approach," he said. "If it's not there, it's just not there."