Faced with massive cutbacks in water supplies due to drought, California farmers are pumping groundwater to attempt to make up some of the difference. Groundwater levels in some areas are dropping alarmingly.
On the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, growers have had to contend with a 20 percent water allocation from the federal Central Valley Project, while farmers on the east side of the valley have been coping with allocations of class 1 water totaling as little as an acre-foot of water for the entire growing season.
Reservoirs in the San Joaquin area have above average water levels but much of that water is used for salmon in the San Joaquin River. As you might imagine, Central Valley agriculture does not feel charitably disposed towards protecting fish elsewhere with water they would use otherwise.
[Klamath Valley ] “well levels are dropping,” he said. “We’re seeing a 10-foot to 20-foot drawdown. We’ve got a little bit of our surface water allocation left, but it’s coming down to inches. We’ve got to make sure we manage what we’ve got left so we get those crops out of the ground. This is one of the most challenging water management years we’ve ever had, trying to get everybody through to harvest. It would be a disaster to run out at this time of year and we’re not going to let that happen.”
Water prices are rising throughout California as piped-in surface water supplies dwindle.