Since the drought of 2012, water shortages have been an on-going issue. Amongst those affected, growers in the San Joaquin Valley are receiving only a 20 percent allocation, and it could get worse. Growers are concerned that the shortages could extend into 2014.
According to Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, “It is projected that the combined storage in San Luis Reservoir will hit a record low at the end of August, lower than 1977, the driest year on record in California.” Current projections suggest little water will be carried over to next year and “it is for that reason and the potential restrictions on the operation of delta pumping plants that we are projecting that absent a wet December and a wet January, it is probable that the initial allocation for water users in Westlands will be zero.”
Consequently, growers are exploring their options and looking for ways to maximize their water use. One Westside farmer, Bill Dietrich, said that he has been converting to drip irrigation, like many of his neighbors, to optimize his operation.
“As of next spring, I will have 100 percent of my acreage under drip irrigation. All of my row crops are drip irrigated except for one 80-acre field of alfalfa and it is scheduled to be put into drip this fall. On the Westside I grow almonds and prunes, and those are the crops that are in jeopardy. I really don’t know what the future will be, even in 2014. We’re just trying to get this crop harvested and put away.