The people who make decisions about water policy in California should probably not expect a Christmas card from farmers this year.
The Water Resources Control Board wants to increase the water flows in the Lower San Joaquin River System, a system that extends between Merced and Sacramento.
The goal is to save salmon from dying out, but Valley farmers are asking, what about us?
“40 percent of anybody’s water supply is a big deal,” says Mario Santoyo, the director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. “If you can only imagine somebody knocking on your door and saying, ‘you have to cut it off by 40 percent.'”
Santoyo knows about frustration with water boards.
He recently led a failing effort to secure funding for the Temperance Flat Dam.
This decision is just the latest blow.
“What that will translate into is fallowing of thousands and thousands of acres,” Santoyo says, “and thereby also cutting off employment.”
Jack Rice of the California Farm Bureau Federation says there are ways to protect the salmon and farmers.
He says the plan needs to be more flexible.
“It has this rigid, ‘we are going to take a certain portion of the natural flow,’ and that’s not reasonable given that there are other, better options out there,” says Rice.
All this comes as California farmers are preparing for life with tight groundwater restrictions.
For Santoyo, there’s not a lot of optimism.
“What’s a farmer to do,” he asks. “If he can’t use water from below, and his surface water is getting cut off, that’s going to be a tough road.”