Drought causes well drilling boom in Valley

FRESNO, Calif.

Growers have gone to great lengths and depths to pump groundwater and valley well drilling companies can't keep up with the demand.

The uncertainty over water availability has many growers paying big bucks to put in new wells on their farms. Well drilling rigs are popping up all over the valley. On this Tulare county farm the well will be used to irrigate hay and corn.

Steve Arthur of Arthur and Orum Well Drilling has seven crews working night and day for worried farmers. He explained, "They've always had ditch water and now that's not happening."

Some canals which normally carry irrigation water are bone dry because of severe cutbacks due to the drought. Now more than ever farmers see new wells as a way to save the crop but there's a massive back log.

Arthur said, "We're just telling them it's going to be two to three months right now. And that list is getting longer every day."

Well driller Isreal Ortega added, "Oh yeah, I've been working two Saturdays in this month so you can imagine."

With each 40-foot pipe extension crews are drilling 28-inch holes deeper than ever in search of an aquifer. But it comes at a steep cost. A 400-foot well runs a hundred-thousand dollars. Double that price to add a pump to move the water.

Many areas though require deeper wells. If your water supply is at 1,500 feet it'll cost you about $400,000. Double that to add a pump.

Arthur said, "Small farmers I think they're going to have a hard time making it."

Arthur added many small farmers are seeing their wells go dry but they don't have the money to drill deeper - not a problem for the large farming operations.

"A lot of the customers are telling me I want three wells, I want four. I want 19. It's just unbelievable. It's crazy."

All of the new wells are putting a strain on the Valley water table. Without any rain, the aquifers aren't being replenished.

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