Valley Farmers Drill Water Wells

June 16, 2008 9:32:38 PM PDT
Drought conditions have caused many Valley farmers to drill new water wells on their land.But growers face an agonizing wait to have power hooked up to those wells.

PG&E says it is simply backed up. Faced with a minimal irrigation supply, many farmers want their own wells but it can take up to a year to feed a new electrical line to run a water pump.

New wells have sprouted around the valley's west-side in recent months. The actual drilling may take a few weeks but running a new electrical line out on the farm takes much longer.

Jim Martin, CalWest Rain: "Really it's quite common it takes almost a year for PG&E to get power out to some of our customers."

Martin tells farmers he can't take on any new orders for water pumps. PG&E has been overwhelmed by requests to have electricity hooked up to new wells.

Jeff Smith, PG&E: "We're receiving about 300 new applications per month so it's pretty significant."

"We're seeing so many applications that keeping up with that demand is certainly a challenge for us."

Smith says PG&E is now looking at ways to shorten the wait time for farmers wanting to hook up electricity to their wells. An 8-week waiting period is possible.

"There's not a lot of new ones being added right now because the problem of getting a driller out and getting the well drilled on time for this year and to get power in time for this year is pretty unlikely."

It costs up to half-a-million dollars for a farmer to put in a well. But some growers want to switch to electricity because rising fuel prices make it more expensive to run generators powered by diesel.

"Diesel is probably two-thirds as expensive as electricity to pump water out of the ground."

West-side farmers are now deciding which crops to save although permanent crops like pistachios and almonds normally take precedent over row crops.

"I think it's going to be a very painful summer."

Farmers say pumping well water is just a temporary solution during drought conditions.


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