Ed Chambers, a Central Valley (California) citrus grower and farm manager of more than 700 acres, has never witnessed anything as catastrophic to the area’s citrus industry as this year’s 0 percent surface water allocation.

Chambers started farming in 1962 and has dedicated his life to the citrus industry. During the 1976-1977 drought, he was told to expect only 1 acre foot of surface water to service his crops.

By April, he and other citrus growers dependent upon water from the Friant-Kern Canal received sufficient supplies to produce a crop.

Today, in the midst of another drought event, Friant users are told to expect zero allocation. 

However, due to recent storms, the water supply is in a better position today than in 1977. Lake Shasta currently has double the amount of water than in 1977. Lake Oroville has 25 percent more water than in 1977. Yet, Friant users have received 0 percent allocation.

Difficult decision

Due to this, Ed has made the difficult decision to remove 40 acres of 108 year-old orange trees which have produced a crop every year until now.

“This problem was not created by Mother Nature,” says California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen. “It is the result of the bureaucratic mess in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Now, Valley citrus growers, the people they employ, and the communities that rely on a vibrant citrus industry are at the mercy of their lack of decision.”

The Friant-Kern Canal needs 200,000 acre feet of water to keep the pumps running and service the minimum water requirements of its domestic and agricultural users. While there are currently enough supplies in the system, nothing has been allocated to agriculture whereas the environmental demands and the needs of fish are met in excess.