While some growers in Central California’s Merced County are none-too-thrilled with a proposal to export water to an adjacent county, others see the deal as vital to keep their permanent crops alive in a year where surface water is unavailable due to state and federal decisions.

Permanent crop grower Jim Jasper, owner of Stewart and Jasper in Newman, Calif., says the need for water is paramount. He has trees to keep alive this year.

“This would be extremely helpful for the farmers in our area to get this water,” Jasper said.

Jasper’s farming operations have no surface water allocations this year and little well water. Jasper is in a fight for his existence. He is a multi-generational grower in the region with almonds, cherries, and citrus in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Stewart & Jasper handles about 40 million pounds of almonds annually; about 2 percent of California’s total almond crop. Some growers who ship to Stewart & Jasper are in the same boat.

For more than 10 years, Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District (DPWD), has been forced to look on the open market to fill the annual void caused by insufficient surface water deliveries from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project (CVP).

The latest proposal to purchase a maximum of 26,000 acre feet of water at about $1,000 per acre foot raised some immediate concern, not due to the price, but because of the relatively large amount of ground water that opponents say will be exported from two farms in central Merced County.

With 45,000 acres in Stanislaus, Merced, and San Joaquin counties to serve, Hansen needs approximately 140,000 acre feet of water each year for the district. This year she received zero water from the CVP.