Potentially Devastating Water Restrictions for Farmers

Merced, CA The Merced Irrigation District has had to place limits on the amount of water it can provide to its nearly two thousand customers for the first time since 1992. And many Fresno County farmers are also facing potentially devastating restrictions.

Farmers across the Valley are feeling the effects of the driest spring in more than eight decades and the largest court ordered restrictions on water transfers in state history. The Westland's Water District, which accounts for a billion dollars a year in farm production, was forced to implement a rationing plan last week. And the bureau of reclamation is reducing its supply for area growers from 45 percent to 40 percent.

Chris Hurd, Farmer: "Some of the trees will not receive their sufficient amount of water, so there will be some hardship to the trees, the crop will be reduced, it will even hurt the buds for next year."

Chris Hurd says that also means many farmers will have to lay off employees and pass higher costs onto customers.

Chris Hurd: "It will be hurting the community and the whole infrastructure of the state."

Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo says he's stepping up water conservation efforts as he watches his fellow farmers make major sacrifices to deal with the drought. But he's hoping Governor Schwarzenegger's declaration will make a difference.

John Pedrozo, Alfalfa Farmer: "I thought it would be a little sooner, but I commend the Governor because he knows very well how important water is to the San Joaquin Valley."

Schwarzenegger visited the San Luis Reservoir last July to push his proposal to increase California's water supply. The 12 billion dollar plan calls for more storage and a canal to more efficiently move water around the state. But legislators have not been able to reach an agreement. And now Schwarzenegger, and area farmers, say they can't wait any longer.

Pedrozo: "There are some people that are going to run out of water in the middle of the summer."

A spokesperson for the Westland's Water District says members are encouraged by the governor's drought declaration, but they're still hoping Schwarzenegger will declare a state of emergency.

She says that would allow more flexibility to make better use of the state's limited water resources.

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