Business leaders discuss drought impact

The drought and the state's ongoing struggle over water was the focus of a business roundtable.
March 6, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley farmers aren't the only ones impacted by the California drought. The drought and the state's ongoing struggle over water was the focus of a business roundtable.

Recent storms have not changed this summer's outlook. Hundreds of thousands of acres will go unplanted in the Valley because of severe cutbacks in water deliveries.

Farmers already feel the pain, but Westlands Water District general manager Tom Birmingham brought the message to local business leaders gathered at the exhibit hall in Downtown Fresno.

"There is a very close relationship between the ability of farmers to farm, which requires water, and the success of small and large businesses throughout the Valley," Birmingham explained.

Federal forecasters predict warming in the Pacific Ocean may ease California's drought problems this year. They believe the "el nino" effect will result in a wet winter.

California Department of Water Resources deputy director Laura King Moon said, "I sure hope we have an el nino year. That would be fantastic."

But Moon said it will take much more than several storms to fix the state's water problems.

"We also have a need to invest in new water infrastructure so that we have the ability to store and move more water when we have the water available," she said.

Birmingham was glad to see the recent rain and snowfall but insisted it still will be a painful summer for many growers.

"Those rains don't begin to put a dent in the drought," said Birmingham. "Unless we see flooding of biblical proportions the farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley will have a zero allocation."

Birmingham added this year we'll see more fallowed land and more groundwater pumping than ever, and "We'll see more economic and human disruption than we've ever seen."


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