Valley Farmers could lose carryover water

Valley farmers already looking at water delivery cutbacks this year were shocked to learn they might also lose federal water they carried over from last year.
January 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley farmers already looking at water delivery cutbacks this year were shocked to learn they might lose federal water they carried over from last year.

Democrats and Republicans don't often see eye to eye but in this case they are sending a unified message to the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Valley farmers have been pumping groundwater to irrigate parched plots because of the drought. Rain gauges remain empty and the frustrations continue to mount for growers like Paul Betancourt of Kerman.

The Bureau of Reclamation might not deliver rescheduled water to farmers. It is water banked from a previous year.

"First of all this is a long-running problem with the bureau. They tell us to conserve water but you can't carry it over to the next year so what's my motivation to conserve water especially if I have to pay for it," Betancourt said.

Many farmers often choose to use their water for future crops. Over 300,000 acre feet of carryover water is stored at San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos.

Republican congressman Devin Nunes of Tulare said the bureau shouldn't be allowed to take the unprecedented action of halting those deliveries.

"This is an issue where the farmers who tried their hardest to plan are going to be left without water," Nunes said.

Local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are fighting for the farmers. Democratic congressman Jim Costa of Fresno said a drastic reduction could be devastating.

"This carryover water, this is a lifeline and so if they're not able to receive the allocation that they've set aside or only a portion of the allocation it could be very, very detrimental," Costa said.

Betancourt said farmers made cropping decisions and took out loans months ago knowing they at least had some carryover water.

"Sure we understand if there's no rainfall there's no water but then to get this on top of it is just difficult to swallow," Betancourt said.

The Bureau of Reclamation is expected to make its decision on carryover water later this week.


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