Water Crisis Far From Over

September 5, 2008 10:01:06 PM PDT
Dozens of people packed a water workshop in Los Banos to learn what's being done to deal with current drought conditions ... And prepare for the future.The San Luis Reservoir came dangerously close to going dry this summer. But federal officials say the immediate danger is over thanks to strict water rationing.

Ron Milligan: "This was not a painless exercise, but we did get through the year or through the summer anyway with just a little bit of water left in San Luis on the federal share."

But the water crisis has left mass casualties along the way.

Chris Hurd: "Hundreds of thousands of acres in jeopardy ... "

Farmers like Chris Hurd lost crops and employees.

Chris Hurd: "I've spent 200% more on water budget to irrigate my orchards this year and I've laid off more people."

The outlook for next year is still uncertain. Reservoirs across the state are well below their average levels, and some experts say it will take above average rainfall to make up for two years of drought.

"Going into next year if it's dry again, we've got some real issues that are going to be difficult to manage."

While the weather is "up in the air," other possible solutions lie in the hands of legislators. California lawmakers failed to approve a water bond measure in time for the November ballot, but Congressman Dennis Cardoza says they need to offer a plan for improved storage that could appear in a special election.

Cardoza: "We have to address this crisis. It is nearly the situation where it would have cataclysmic effects on the state of California if we don't act."

Cardoza is also working on a bill that would allow for some endangered species act restrictions to be lifted during droughts. But similar proposals have failed in the past. And growers say they can't afford to wait any longer for a solution.

Chris Hurd: "There will be a tremendous amount of land not farmed this next year, lack of jobs, lack of revenues to the county and city coiffeurs."

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