Even Less Water for Central Valley Farmers

Taylor Hillman General, Water

More bad news for Central Valley growers, and one official says it could devastate local economies. Sabrina Hill has more.
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The Bureau of Reclamation announced today that the allocation of water for farmers served by Westlands and other south-of-Delta Central Valley Project water service contractors would be lowered from 25 percent to 20 percent. The general manager of Westlands Water District, Thomas Birmingham, says the water supply reductions facing farmers will devastate the local communities and that local communities face more than $1 billion in lost economic activity due to reduced water supplies for farmers.

He says the district understands that the most recent cut imposed by Reclamation is a result of record dry conditions experienced in January, February, and March; but “ this reduction is being imposed after the loss of hundreds-of-thousands of acre-feet of water experienced during a record wet December. Those losses are difficult to comprehend,” he said.

More than 800,000 acre feet of water was lost from mid-December through the end of January due to pumping restrictions imposed under the 2008 biological opinion for Delta smelt. For Westlands Water District this equates to a loss of 195,000 acre feet of water that has gone out to the ocean without being directed to farmland.

Birmingham says farmers in Westlands will lose $350 million of revenue, the regional economy will lose more than $1 billion in economic activity, thousands of farm workers will lose their jobs, and businesses and communities in the San Joaquin Valley that support irrigated agriculture will suffer significant loss and hardship, he says.

He says the decrease in the water allocation demonstrates again how broken the state’s water system has become. He says “when we continue to lose water because of questionable fish actions, we can be assured our priorities are misaligned.”