Valley farmers face zero water allocation next year

FRESNO, Calif.

Water delivered from the San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos keeps crops going on farms in Western Fresno County. But farmers received just 20 percent of their water allocation this year.

To fill the void growers like Paul Betancourt have been pumping well water.

"Groundwater for me is the emergency. It's the back-up plan. We need district water to survive," Betancourt said.

Pumping water from underground costs more and the quality, it is not good for crops like tomatoes, lettuce and almonds.

" This is salt that comes with the irrigation water. It layers on top. It's a very thin layer on top but accumulating that over time you'll poison the soil," Betancourt said.

Betancourt said this is the time of year to make cotton crops. But as for next year's outlook, the Westlands Water District has braced growers for the worst case scenario.

"Looks grim. Water district had a meeting with and they said get ready for zero percent deliveries," said Betancourt.

Gayle Holman of Westlands said, "our growers are struggling just to keep their operations going at 20 percent. To go lower than that is really something that's just unthinkable, and it would be extremely devastating not only to what growers produce but to our economy."

Betancourt expects to see growers next year plant less cotton, less wheat, less tomatoes and other crops - which could result in higher prices for consumers.

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