Farmers' Wells Run Dry

July 29, 2009 8:29:43 PM PDT
For farmers on the Valley's west-side, pumping groundwater has become an essential practice due to a reduced water supply.For years farmers have warned too many "straws" were going into the ground, drinking up irrigation water. Now their worst fears have been confirmed.

Crews endured the hot sun to remove 600-feet of column pipe from a water well near Five Points. The well hasn't been producing its normal yield. Bob Simonian of Cal West Rain said, "This crew right here is pulling this pump at this time. There's been some issues with the well or the pump itself. As a result of it, it's necessary to get it pulled from the well."

Simonian said the company has been bombarded with calls from farmers whose wells have gone dry. "Sometimes you start delivering sand and that's the result of maybe the older wells will do that."

A third year of drought coupled with federal restrictions on pumping from the delta have taken their toll. Irrigation's put on hold while pumps can be fixed and it's costing much more to chase the water.

Crews often must drill 100-feet deeper to find water at a cost of about 12-thousand dollars. Simonian said, "You just can't do this indefinitely. At some point in time the cost of getting that water continues to increase."

Simonian says a stronger motor with more horsepower to pull the water up can easily cost 40-grand more.

West-side farmers are putting added pressure on the underground aquifer but many have no choice but to pay at the pump. Simonian added, "It's always nice to have the supplemental water from the wells but to try to depend solely on it just can't go on."

Crews from Cal West Rain often work 12-hour days six days to keep up with the demand and there's still a backlog. Water quality is another issue. Until harvest time, farmers really don't know how pumped groundwater, heavy in salts, will affect their crop.

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