December could be one of driest months on record

FRESNO, Calif.

The only other time the Central Valley didn't see any rain during the month of December was back in 1989.

For the second time since the harvest, Stephen Schafer is using a drip system to keep his Madera vineyard irrigated, a measure prompted by a lack of rainfall.

"We're a little over a third of the way through the rainy season and we've seen no water so far. It's something I think about when I go to sleep at night," said Schafer.

So far, the Valley has received only half of the average amount of rainfall we normally see by this time and no rain at all during the month of December.

Mario Santoyo with the California Latino Water Coalition said the dry December could be an ominous sign of what's to come. "If we don't see some water in the next couple of weeks then we'd better have some red flags out there because we could end up being in one of the driest years ever," said Santoyo.

Ironically, the absence of rain follows an exceptionally wet year.

Santoyo said some of that water has been stored underground but it's not enough to last through more than one dry season.

"Had we stored that water in let's say a new reservoir that's being proposed through this water bond, we could be going into this dry year without any concern. But when you're not able to hold it, that's a different story," said Santoyo.

Farmers are now holding onto the hope of more rain in the months to come. In the meantime, they're working to protect their crops, just in case.

"We're making sure the pumps are all in good shape, that the wells have all been checked and repaired because these are permanent crops. If you don't irrigate them, they'll die and you'll lose a pretty big investment," said Schafer.

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