Valley farmers worried as groundwater levels remain low

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Throughout western Fresno County, fertile land has been taken out of production because the irrigation supply isn't stable enough to bring a crop to harvest.

Many of Joe Del Bosque's dry fields in Firebaugh will stay that way this season.

"We pulled out our asparagus and we're not planting our sweet corn, so we're down to just two crops - almonds and our melons," he said.

Del Bosque normally would grow asparagus on the 100-acre plot and keep a group of loyal workers busy through the summer.

"We've been growing asparagus for like 22 years, and about 70 people lost their jobs as a result of that," he said.

Without adequate surface water delivered from reservoirs, some growers must continue to pump groundwater from their wells.

But the California Groundwater Live website shows 64% of monitored wells are below normal.

"We are seeing groundwater tables in some places drop very significantly, so it does become concerning," says Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

Most of the wells that measured at an all-time low - in red - are in the Valley.

Del Bosque says the drought challenge is even impacting growers beyond Central California.

"I don't know if we've ever been in a situation quite as bad as this year," he said.

Jacobsen says reduced water deliveries means many other crops won't be grown.

"When it comes to those areas, like those on the west side that have a zero percent allocation, you're going to see a whole lot less on the annual crops go in," he said.

Unfortunately, Del Bosque says consumers may ultimately pay the price at the store.

"That could translate into higher food prices because supply is shorter," he said.

The Department of Water Resources website also showed 102 wells have already run dry in California this year alone.
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