By Jim Carlton. California farmers face being cut off from federal water imports for the second straight year, in an unprecedented move likely to worsen crop losses in the nation’s biggest agricultural state. . .
Farmers, meanwhile, say they will have to continue to fallow fields and take other cost-cutting measures as they try to wait out a drought they say has been worsened by federal regulatory restrictions on how water is allocated. . .
In 2014, the state’s agriculture economy lost more than $2.2 billion and more than 17,000 jobs as farmers fallowed nearly a half million acres of fields, according to estimates last year by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Barring an unforeseen deluge, the losses this year are expected to be “a bit more” than that, said Jay Lund, the center’s director. . .
One of the hardest hit areas again will likely be the Westlands Water District in the southern part of the Central Valley, which gets all of its imported water supplies from the Central Valley Project. After 220,000 of the district’s 614,000 acres were fallowed last year, spokeswoman Gayle Holman said “expect the same or more” for the current year. (Read more from “Feds Starving California Farmers of Water” HERE).
Wildlife Refuges, Endangered Species Get Federal Water before California Farmers
By FENIT NIRAPPIL. When planning deliveries, the federal government has mandatory obligations to farms and communities holding senior water rights, including the city of Sacramento, and wildlife refuges protected by federal law to restore fish habitats, said Ron Milligan, a Central Valley Project operations manager.
Agriculture ends up bearing much of federal water cuts during dry periods. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley only received 10 percent of their requested amounts in 2009 and 20 percent in 2013. Two consecutive years of no allocations is unprecedented.
Farmers are instead turning to storage supplies and pumping from largely unregulated groundwater wells that are quickly being depleted.
Paul Betancourt spent $40,000 to renovate wells on his 765-acre west Fresno County farm, where his family grows cotton, almonds, wheat and onions. He can keep watering his crops this year but says groundwater isn’t a long-term solution . . .
Some communities and endangered wildlife that rely on federal water will receive some water but still suffer cuts. Urban areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento area, will receive a quarter of typical water allotments but could receive more if public health is threatened. (Read more from this story HERE)