FRESNO COUNTY, California. (KGPE) – The California Water Resource Control Board voted unanimously to implement an emergency order water curtailment, which will ban farmers from taking water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.
“You’ve already invested a lot into your crops, and before you get to harvest, you run out of water,” said Joe Del Bosque, a farmer. “And it’s definitely going to not only hurt farmers, it’s going to hurt their employees, and even communities along the river that depend on that water.”
California Farm Water Coalition executive director Mike Wade said the order will cut off thousands of farmers from their main source of irrigation, affecting farms from Fresno to north of Lake Shasta.
“There’s no question we’re in a severe drought year, and the state water board’s action is an indicator of how severe the situation is,” said Wade.
“We’ve had to destroy crops, we’ve had to fallow fields. It’s been very tough for us out here, probably the worst year that I’ve ever experienced,” said Del Bosque.
State senator Melissa Hurtado of Sanger said the order will cut vital water supplies to many Central Valley farms that are already dealing with reduced water allocations.
Some, like Del Bosque, have had to fallow large segments of their farmland.
In a letter sent to the board last week, Hurtado said the California Public Policy Institute estimates that by 2040, the San Joaquin Valley will lose over 500,000 acres of agricultural land to fallowing, and that number could be even higher if drought conditions continue.
Wade said the impact will be felt nationwide since California produces two-thirds of US-producer fruits and nuts and one-third of US-produced vegetables.
“Which means if we’re not producing them, they have to come from somewhere else, and oftentimes that’s overseas, and it’s from countries that don’t have the same kind of growing conditions or the same regulations or restrictions on grower practices that we rely on in California for a safe food supply,” said Wade.
Wade said California is in urgent need of better water infrastructure to meet the growing demand in the state and to prepare for severe droughts like we’ve experienced this year.