Fresno County declares drought emergency

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno County Supervisors hope passing the drought emergency declaration will get the county some help in dealing with growing water problems.

Supervisor Henry Perea told Action News: "The message is twofold, one, is to the Federal Government and State Government we need resources not just deal with the immediate food supply, water supply
issues for communities that are going to be hit the hardest but also to share with us the infrastructure dollars that will be coming to build and improve clean safe drinking water."

At the same time the county has also issued tough drought restrictions for five small water districts, on the west side of the Valley and in the foothills. The restrictions mean no outside watering.

"The message there is the people in those communities can only use water for basic survival needs. " Perea said. That means water just for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco says it is bringing home the message the drought is affecting everyone. "In the past people thought of the drought as just affecting farmers, but I think what the drought has taught us over the last two years, it's more than just farmers are going to suffer through this drought."

But while farmers are victims of the drought, some residents complain new plantings of Almonds and other trees during the drought are draining their residential water wells.

Harland Kelly, who says his well has dried up thanks to an adjacent orchard told the supervisors "We depend on drinking water to survive, they depend on water to make money. "

Community Activist Robert Mitchell, whose well is also dropping, says residents understand the need to conserve water, but urged the county supervisors to consider some type of restrictions on farm operations. "We are understanding the need to do such actions but we are also aware there are no actions taken to farmers who can pump as much as they want as long as they want. And that is not sustainable for anyone."

Board members listened politely. Pacheco told Action News farmers are in a bind, because they have only two choices. Water their crops, or let them die.
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