Farmers prepare for water scarcity
Despite some recent rains, state officials issued grim warnings to farmers last week, warning them to prepare for water shortages this summer.
The California Department of Water Resources announced on Tuesday that cities and farms belonging to the State Water Project can now expect to receive just 5% of requested supplies this year, down from the planned allocation of 10%. in December. Just the day before, the State Water Resources Board told water users to start taking precautions now for water shortages expected later in the year.
“We are now faced with the reality that this will be a second dry year for California and it is having a significant impact on our water supply,” said DWR director Karla Nemeth. “The Department of Water Resources is working with our federal and state partners to plan for the impacts of limited water supplies this summer on agriculture as well as urban and rural water users. We encourage everyone to look for ways to use water efficiently in their daily lives.
According to the US Drought Monitor, nearly 91 percent of California is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. While some hoped that a “March miracle” would bring much needed precipitation, there was not enough precipitation to make a difference.
Turlock Irrigation District hydrologist Olivia Cramer told the board meeting on Tuesday that a total of 3.01 inches of rain fell in the Tuolumne River watershed until March 21, or about 55% of the historic 5.47-inch average for March. The hydrologic year, which began on September 1, 2020 and ends at the end of August 2021, has so far seen the watershed receive 17.2 inches of precipitation, or about 60% of the average of 30, 55 inches.
TID’s customers and local growers have been given a 34-inch irrigation cap this season, which recently started with just over 300 orders last week. To determine how much water to allocate to farmers this year, TID looked at the most recent drought on record, which began in 2012. That year, the Tuolumne River watershed received 48% of the average. historical rainfall and farmers received 40 inches. In 2020, the irrigation cap was set at 42 inches after a 51 percent water year.
The 34-inch water cap in 2021 is lower than last year, but sufficient compared to previous years in times of drought. In 2014, the award dropped from 34 inches the year before to just 20 inches. The following year, 2015, TID implemented a historically low 18-inch water cap. In 2016, however, that number doubled and the award was set at 36 inches.
As of March 10, the state’s snowpack was only 58% of the average. Reservoir and groundwater levels throughout California are significantly below average; The Don Pedro Reservoir currently has about 250,000 less acre in storage than at this time last year.
Although a drought was not officially announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom – then Gov. Jerry Brown declared the most recent drought over in 2017 – US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack has named 50 California counties, including Stanislaus, as major natural disaster areas earlier this year. months because of drought. This gives farmers the next eight months to apply for help through the Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans.
“Continued dry conditions can threaten water supplies, alter critical habitat, reduce recreational opportunities and create uncertainty for all water users,” DWR memo sent to farmers said. across the state this week. “… Your early efforts can help minimize the potential impact of water management actions on California businesses, homes, farms, and public resources. Start planning now for potential water supply shortages later this year and identify practical steps you can take to increase drought resistance, such as increasing water conservation measures, reducing irrigated areas, herd size management, the use of innovative irrigation and monitoring technologies or the diversification of your portfolio water supply. “
For more information on current drought statistics, visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA.