Farms Find Aid in Federal Funding

Fresno, CA The aim is to increase the flow of water where it is needed most. On the valley's west-side hundreds of thousands of acres have been idled because of the drought and severe cutbacks in deliveries from the delta.

Westlands Water District received the biggest chunk of funding at nine-and-a-half million dollars. District spokesperson Sarah Woolf said, "Specifically to work on rehabilitating groundwater wells that the district already has and are not using and also to install new wells."

15 new wells in a region where some wells are drying up because so many farmers are pumping groundwater. Woolf said, "I think the big concern for us is we know from history that the ground will collapse if we pump out too much too fast. It's happened in the past. Unfortunately it is our current stop-gate. It is all we have to offer."

Westlands is one of over a dozen local agencies to receive funding. Money will also be used to enhance conservation through drip irrigation and sprinkler systems.

But David Zoldoske, Director of the California Water Institute at Fresno State, is very concerned because the plan calls for dozens of new wells to be drilled. Zoldoske said, "We are currently over-drafting about two-million feet out of the aquifer across the state and that's the equivalent of four Millerton Lakes when it's full. So you can't keep writing checks when you're not putting money in the bank. You can't keep drawing water out of the ground without replacing it."

Zoldoske calls it a band-aid approach to a long-term problem. "It's both relief to know that the farmers are gonna be able to continue to stay in business but it's also a little anxiety in the sense that we know that's not sustainable and we've got a train wreck in the future that we're just putting off, sort of like the state budget."

The San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Authority will get two-million dollars for a groundwater monitoring project to protect the aquifer from overdraft.

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