Valley farmers disappointed at low reservoir water allocation this year

Many farmers will have to rely on pumping groundwater to irrigate their crops.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley farmers as well as communities that rely on surface water deliveries from reservoirs were disappointed to learn how low their allocations will be this year.

Despite a few strong storms in January and February, much of California remained under moderate to extreme drought conditions.

Water districts like Westlands rely on irrigation deliveries from San Luis Reservoir but farmers won't be getting much water from the Bureau of Reclamation through the Central Valley Project.

Central Valley Operations Manager Kristin White said, "Agricultural water service contractors south of the delta are allocated 5% of their contract total of 1.965 million acre feet."

Westlands Water District C.O.O Jose Gutierrez said cropping decisions were being made this week and the lack of surface water deliveries could have a major impact on communities on the Valley's west side, including the loss of jobs.

Gutierrez explained, "When you have a 5% allocation, you'll likely see some tomato fields not planted. I suspect that cotton... very little if any cotton will be planted."

The Bureau of Reclamation cited dry conditions and a low statewide water content for the low water allocations.

Mid-Pacific Region Director Ernest Conant said, "In the San Joaquin River system only about 50% of normal. As of February 21st, the statewide snowpack is just 66% of average."

Water users who rely on their supply coming out of Friant Dam will also be forced to deal with a much lower allocation this year.

Area Manager Michael Jackson said, "Based on the Department of Water Resources and the National Weather Service February 2021 runoff forecast, the Friant Division water allocation is 20% of Class 1 and 0% for Class 2."

Gutierrez added, "It's highly likely a lot of land will be fallowed."

Farmers said they face another year where many of them will have to rely on pumping groundwater to irrigate their crops.
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