Valley farmers have high hopes about first storm after Congress signs new water bill into law

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Keith Neilmeier is a fourth generation citrus farmer and he knows better than anyone how rain can be both a friend and an enemy. (KFSN)

Keith Neilmeier is a fourth generation citrus farmer and he knows better than anyone how rain can be both a friend and an enemy.

"The dull side of that double edged sword is that it kind of messes us up with our cultural practices. We were supposed to start picking oranges tomorrow; we're not going to be able to do that."

Tuesday's storm is the beginning of a days-long downpour-- delaying when Neilmeier can prune and spray his 250 acre farm. But at the same time, the moisture warmed temperatures fending off frost and will hopefully fill depleted recharge basins.

"It was just like, 'oh this a pain, but we'll get past it,' but the upside is this is what we really need."

The rain also tests out new legislation; Congress recently passed a water bill that allows pumps to deliver excess water to farmers from the environmentally sensitive San Joaquin Delta.

"The flexibility comes when there is additional water in the river system, and with the storm we are anticipating now, it will bring that additional water," said Gayle Holman, Westlands Water District.

This storm is the first one since legislation became law. The Westlands Water District said it is unclear how much excess water will end up in reservoirs.

"In past years, we've just watched that water flow into the ocean, uncaptured, unsaved," said Holman.

But growers like Neilmieler are optimistic.

"We need to make sure that all the water bills we pass are getting enough water to farmers."

Nilmeier is hopeful this law and this rain will both benefit generations to come.

Related Topics:
weatheragriculturefarmingfresno county
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