Miller recommended getting a water analysis early to determine water quality.

“You don’t want to plug your system in a year when there is a limited water supply,” she said.

Kip Green, a consultant to Britz Farming Co., echoed Miller’s advice to have water tested so as to avoid clogging emitters. He also recommended having wells tested and pointed out that the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State University offers testing through its Pump Efficiency Program in collaboration with Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which offers improvement rebate money.

“It’s a way to save money,” Green said. “They’re paying you to save money.”

He also recommends measuring soil moisture content with devices that include Watermarks, tensiometers, neutron probes and capacitance probes. “You need to know where the water is going.” He and others said that’s something the state is likely to monitor more closely in a time of scarce water.

 

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Green said growers should “keep an eye on (canopy) growth during the season and watch for over-vigor and stress symptoms. Rank growth and over-vigor means water waste.”

A software irrigation management program called Wateright, available free through the Center for Irrigation Technology, can help stretch limited water, Green said.

“You also need to keep weeds down,” he said. “They’re a wick for moisture.”

Green recommends leaf petiole analysis to determine levels of nutrients that include nitrogen and potassium: “Potassium controls the stomates on the plant, and if it is deficient in potassium it can mean added stress and reduced respiration.”

 As for lenders, they have long taken into account the availability of water for growing crops, said David Ylarregui, senior vice president of field operations with Fresno Madera Farm Credit.

“One of the questions is what can we do to get a reliable source of water,” Ylarregui said. That may mean drilling wells as needed, an expensive proposition that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said, “and it can take 18 to 24 months to get a well driller out.”

 

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Ylarregui recited some stark facts his institution has found: “We’re entering the third consecutive year of a drought. Reservoirs around the state are 20 percent below historic levels. There are reports some on the West Side (of the Valley) are walking away from property to save money for permanent crops. About 500,000 acres of land have been fallowed. That will result in reduction of 117,000 jobs and will result in $2.2 billion in lost production.”

He said irrigation districts that include the Fresno Irrigation District and Madera Irrigation District are likely to deliver water for only a month at best.