Members of Soroptimist International Los Banos received a crash-course on the water woes in the Central Valley.
Gayle Holman, a spokeswoman with the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, Monday informed them of the tough times farmers are facing.
“We have two droughts, a weather-related drought and a drought through regulations,” Holman said in a telephone interview after the speech to Soroptimist.
Holman said federal regulations protecting Delta smelt have led to years of pumping restrictions.
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“We were unable to pump, so that water flowed to the ocean,” she said.
Westlands is the largest irrigation district in the United States, with more than 600,000 acres extending through 70 miles of land in the Central Valley.
On Friday, the California Department of Water Resources raised the State Water Project allocation from zero to 5 percent, an all-time low in the project’s 54-year history. The Central Valley Water Project allocation remains at zero.
Holman said the lack of water has put farmers in a tough spot. She said they can fallow land, use groundwater if they have access to wells, or buy water that is on the market at $800 to $1,000 per acre foot.
Holman said water allocations could change at any time and wet weather remains a possibility, but farmers must deal with current conditions.
“We’re still in the middle of this disaster,” she said.
Holman said she was not surprised when the Soroptimist group asked her to speak; she’s received many similar requests because of the drought .
She said the lack of water is likely to cause food banks to have less inventory.
Holman said President Barack Obama’s visit to Fresno and Merced counties in February has drawn attention to the drought issue.
“The president’s visit put a spotlight on the situation,” she said. “It is beneficial to have that acknowledgment.”