As fall returns to the West Coast, almost all growers are looking to the sky and wondering what, if anything, the heavens will bestow upon them for next season.

“Water availability for next year is the talk right now,” says Don Cameron, manager of Terranova Ranch in Helm.

The current shortage has already forced some tough choices as to where to route water among permanent and row crops on the West Side. The choices could definitely get tougher before they get easier.

“Growers who thought they would have additional water available for post harvest on trees are finding their supplies shrinking rapidly,” Cameron says. “That’s quite a switch from last year when they had large carryover positions at this time. The first crop that will be cut next season is cotton.”

In the meantime, growers are hedging their bets and hoping some of the fall/winter crops will hit the jackpot, or at least not force them into a position of having to fold.

“With wheat prices high, and garlic contracts available, growers are switching to these to spread their water risk around,” Cameron says. “They can use the water during the winter on these crops and make money. That way, they’ll have fewer acres to spread the summer well-water and federal/state water on.”

Processing tomatoes could get interesting next year. “One canner is offering a water incentive to early growers to pay $400 per acre if the West Side water allocation on June 1 is less than 30 percent,” Cameron says. “They want to be assured of their early Fresno County tomatoes.”