The drought of 2014 will affect more than farmers in California’s Central Valley; it will also have an impact on the local communities far beyond the drop in farmgate receipts from not planting or harvesting crops.
Civic and government officials speaking at the World Ag Expo Water Summit in Tulare, Calif., on Feb. 13 discussed the toll the lack of irrigation water could have on workers, schools, local governments and infrastructure in a video. The Summit was on the closing day of this year’s Expo.
“This is a very different year from what we’ve had in the past,” said Mario Santoyo, executive director of the California Latino Water Coalition who served a moderator for the first panel at the Summit. “If you look back at 1976 and 1077, that was one of our hardest droughts where there was very little water. But this year is going to be worse than that.
For the first time in memory, he said, the East Side of the San Joaquin Valley, will experience water shortages as we ll. “That’s something they have rarely had to deal with.”
“If we have zero allocations or no water coming our way, that is of grave concern,” said Mayor Gabriel Jimenez of Orange Cove, Calif. “That would put us in a dire situation where we would depend on local farmers to supply that water.”
The problem there would be that water contains nitrates and would have to be treated at considerable expense, according to Jimenez.
“My prayer and hope is that the federal government will recognize that we need more surface water storage,” he noted. “The Temperance Flat dam could help us with that tremendously, not only for Orange Cove but for the entire Central Valley.”
Reduced water allocations will also have an impact on school and governments in the Central Valley, said Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson, by leading to farm workers leaving the valley and taking their children out of the schools. Reduced farm spending will also mean less revenue for local businesses and reduced tax receipts for local governments.
“I can tell you right now the biggest threat to farming and industry in California is the Endangered Species Act,” he said. “They can declare a critter endangered whether they see it or not. They say you have the habitat so it must be there, and you must mitigate it. Then they ask the farmers to pay a penalty because they can’t farm that land. How can that be right?
Larson agreed the Central Valley needs the water from Temperance Flat Dam. “I had a reporter tell me we didn’t need storage because we were going to get all this rainfall from climate change. I told him you made my point because we need to be able to capture that rainfall when we get it, and for that we need storage.”
For more information on the drought in California, click on http://westernfarmpress.com/government/usda-offers-20-million-drought-stricken-california