We're heading into a fourth year of drought, so the announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation wasn't a big surprise. But that doesn't make it any less painful.
Growers said the sight of orange groves ripped out by the roots will become even more common. Some areas in the Valley's citrus belt like Terra Bella and Orange Cove don't have wells to pump groundwater so zero allocation means dead trees.
Friant Water Authority chairman Carl Janzen said, "My first thought was it sucks." Janzen worried about his farmers because any water reserves they had last year have been used up. He explained, "Wells went dry. More wells are going to go dry, so there will be less crops produced. It's just a foregone conclusion." Zero allocation means irrigation canals won't be delivering water to Valley farms and communities.
West side towns like Mendota have seen unemployment steadily rise the past few years. Mayor Robert Silva said, "At this point right now we're talking over 40 percent. You'll have people have hardship paying their bills. Things like that so it's something we have gone through but it's a situation we don't like."
Farmers were expected to fallow more land because of the irrigation uncertainty, but they also continued to plant crops with the hope the water supply will improve. Kerman farmer Paul Betancourt said, "As bad as last year was, the real beatings will start this year because they've used up all their reserves."
Ryan Jacobsen of the Fresno County Farm Bureau said tens of thousands of citrus acreage could get pulled out this year due to the lack of water.