Dry March Threatens Irrigation Supply

April 2, 2008 9:21:24 PM PDT
Just a month ago we were looking at an above average Sierra Snowpack.Now some irrigation districts are already looking at cutbacks. The scenic Kings River provides more than just a place for ducks to play and for people to fish.

Close to thirty irrigation districts and cities rely on the runoff from the Kings. Releases from Pine Flat Dam eventually make their way to Valley farms. The water is ferried through canals. The Fresno Irrigation District uses 800 miles of canals to help farmers irrigate 150-thousand acres, the district had hoped to deliver water through September.

Fresno Irrigation District General Manager Gary Serrato says "The unfortunate thing with March being the fourth driest year on record and we were receiving virtually nothing that projection has dropped back a bit."

Serrato says at this point normal water deliveries should continue through August as long as we see a few storms this month. He says, "If we don't get it in April there may another 5-10 percent adjustment."

A dry March did nothing to boost the snowpack. At Sequoia National Park, Park Ranger Dean Butterworth illustrates the importance of storms.

"So on our feet right here we're standing to next year's oranges."

In this case south Valley growers will benefit. Butterworth says "This water in the snow will melt and it will eventually into the Kaweah River and fill up the Lake Kaweah behind Terminus Dam. And then that water will go out to all the farms in the San Joaquin Valley."

Despite the dry March Gary Serrato is still pleased. Last year farmers in his district received just 38-percent of their normal delivery and its worse for farmers in the Valley's largest water district Westland's. They must deal with pumping restrictions in the Delta. Right now west-side growers expect 45-percent of their normal delivery.


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