Water Shortage Impacts Valley Farming

June 2, 2008 9:26:10 PM PDT
Farmers and water district officials are asking the federal government for help in dealing with a critical water shortage. Hundreds of people packed the auditorium at the Los Banos Fairgrounds to find out what's being done to deal with a devastating water shortage.

Tom Birmingham says the Westlands Water District was forced to start rationing its already reduced water supply last week because partly because of a court ruling designed to protect endangered fish.

Tom Birmingham, Westlands Water District G.M. "We're only going to be able to deliver about 60 percent of the water we otherwise would have delivered to farmers. That means there are farmers in this room who will go out of business because we're not able to deliver them water."

Chris Hurd runs a family owned farm south of Los Banos in the San Luis Water District. He says there are no wells or underground aquifers in the area, so he has to rely purely on federal water. Now he and many others won't be getting enough to keep all of their crops alive or keep all of their workers employed.

Chris Hurd, Runs Farm: "I have trees that we'll have to make decisions whether to turn the water off. There will not be enough water to go around. What water there is will result in limited yields and hardship in the community."

Jim Costa: "The last 3 months have been among the driest in recorded history."

Congressman Jim Costa described the water crisis as the perfect storm created by a critically dry spring, a dry 2007, and a variety of regulations. But he said these desperate times may finally lead to legislative action.

Jim Costa: "Maybe, just maybe, this is the crisis necessary, I hate to say this, we need to try to get some decisions made both in Sacramento and Washington."

Many farmers at this briefing called for improvements to the state's water delivery system along with increased storage and relaxed regulations.

Tom Birmingham: "We have a very important decision. Do we want to sustain agriculture? And it's going to be up to people in Washington and Sacramento to make that decision."


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