Some Farmers With Water Rights to Receive Water

Published 03/18 2014 06:09PM

Updated 03/18 2014 06:21PM

Some farmers with senior water rights may be receiving water from state and federal contracts, according to an announcement made Tuesday during a conference call Tuesday from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Officials with the state and federal water agencies announced they would be relaxing some water outflow requirements from the Delta. 

After human health and safety requirements are met, any remaining water would go to these farmers. 

During a water rally in Firebaugh Tuesday, hundreds of farmers, field workers, activists and politicians celebrated that announcement and said it's a good first step. 

"I think that the pressure that we generated from rallies like this is we're going to see some water this year that for a little while was uncertain," says Cannon Michael, farmer and president of Bowles Farming Company. Michael is an exchange contractor who will benefit from this announcement. 

"That will help keep these farmers alive that are on exchange, as well as getting some water to go to the east side," says Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League. 

But current drought conditions are having an immediate impact on small rural communities like Mendota-- a largely farming community where unemployment is at 36 percent, according to Mendota Mayor Robert Silva. 

"I really believe it's higher than that because the figures are a couple months old. It's tragic what we're seeing already--the trend. it's going to be over 50 percent in no time," Silva says. 

Silva says the local food bank is prepared to serve record numbers of people this year. Still, residents say they are not looking for a handout--rather, help to be able to do their jobs. 

"How much longer will it take until we actually get the help we need?" asks Kevin Romero, a Mendota resident and child of a farmworker. 

On April 1, the state and federal water agencies expect to make another announcement regarding water allocation.

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