Tulare County farmer still having to use ground water to irrigate

Thursday, February 18, 2016
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It remains to be seen if recent rains will allow farmers to reduce their reliance on groundwater.

TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) -- It remains to be seen if recent rains will allow farmers to reduce their reliance on groundwater or bring some relief to residents who have seen their wells go dry.

A walnut farmer Action News spoke with said on a good year he can use 100-percent surface water to irrigate his crop, but due to the drought, he's had to use pretty much all groundwater.

While there may be more snow in the sierra this year. It's still not enough for farmers like Doug Verboon in Kings County. Who, over the last three years, has had to increasingly rely on groundwater to irrigate his walnuts north of Hanford. "The problem we have is that it hasn't snowed, and we've used a lot of our groundwater that we wouldn't use in a normal year because we have no surface water."

Verboon, who is also a Kings County Supervisor, said we need rain, snow, and more water storage to get over this drought and to sustain farming in California. Which he said not only has an enormous impact on local economies but the entire world. "We want to be resourceful and keep our crops alive so we go to groundwater, and no farmer out there wants to be pumping water out of the ground, they want to utilize the surface water," said Verboon.

Because drilling a well and pumping water from the ground is expensive and the groundwater basins are being depleted. "We don't have a backlog at tank installs, last week I think we put in about seven new tanks," said Verboon.

In Tulare County, the number of domestic well failures has leveled off and county fiscal operations director Timothy Lutz is optimistic that the aquifers will get a good recharge during this El Nino year. "We really need a couple strong winters like this to build that momentum to say we're well enough past this drought cycle."

In the meantime, Lutz asks anyone with a well problem to not use it for drinking water and call 211 for drought assistance, including bottled water and tanks.

In the last two years, Tulare County has approved more than 4,700 well drilling permits.