Irrigation districts worry there may not be enough snow

February 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley irrigation canals usually start filling up by March 1st, but it looks like the water will be low for a while longer. The Sierra snow melt provides most of the water used to grow the Valleys crops, and more snow is needed.

The Kings River is running low and Pine Flat Reservoir is only holding half as much water as it was this time last year. The heavy snows of December just weren't enough.

"We actually started out great with snow pack and snow accumulations but all of the sudden it just shut off."

Gary Serrato is the General Manager of the Fresno Irrigation District. Because of the low snowpack the spring irrigation season is going to be delayed. The usual March first start date is already being pushed back to April first, and will be shorter.

"On average we deliver six months out of the year I believe we will probably be able to do four and hopefully we will be able to do five and hopefully that will take us through growing season and a little bit of post-harvest irrigation as well."

Randy McFarland, a spokesman for Kings River water users says it means growers will have to draw from the underground water supply.

"In a below average year there will continue to be water for the crops, but it will cost more because it costs money to pump."

Higher costs for water translate into lower margins for growers, and perhaps fewer jobs and less money into the Valley economy.

Growers who rely on the Sierra snowpack to feed the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers are hoping for some big storms, but making plans to deal with a dry spring.

"It's too early to say it's going to be a bad year but I think it's early enough for us to say it's not going to be a normal year."


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