Central Valley growers welcome rain to irrigate crops

Tulare County growers like Earl Merritt say keep it coming - the rain, that is.

Merritt grows a wide range of crops, including pistachios, grapes, wheat - and he even has cattle.

So far, he's pleased with the winter precipitation, and the positive impact it has for irrigating those crops.

"It provides water for the grass in the hills, it provides snow which turns into underground water that we use for pumping and for deliveries to grow our crops," Merritt said.

But right now, Merritt says, they aren't pumping water from the ground, because the rain from above provides for their irrigation needs.

And growers save money when they can rely on the rain, instead of turning on the pumps.

"The more we have of it, the less expensive water is," Merritt said.

"They're terribly expensive to pump, so if we can get our water from rain, which is essentially free to us, there's no better way," added Tulare County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Tom Tucker.

Tucker says turning off the pumps also helps alleviate some of the Valley's groundwater overdraft issues.

He says the rain that fills reservoirs will eventually make its way to the Valley aquifer.

And while the rain that falls here in the Valley may not replenish the aquifer, he says it will help what's called the root zone for trees, plants, and vines.

"So you're not necessarily helping the underground water so much with that, but you are creating a great benefit to the growers as you're building that water reservoir right at the root level so that the trees can start pulling that water as they move into the spring and summer," Tucker said.

Tulare irrigation District General Manager Aaron Fukuda said, "This is our first line of storage and becomes our irrigation supplies during the spring and summer months."
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