Monday, January 6, 2014

Surveyors Barely Find Snow – Question for Farmers May Be ‘To Grow or To Not to Grow’

The New Year is certainly starting out much like last year ended – with water on everybody’s mind.
For starters, surveyors for the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) confirmed on Friday what we all suspected during their first snow measurement of 2014: More bare ground than snow.

Surveyor measures the snow pack.
 Amid brilliant deep blue skies and spring-like temperatures off of Highway 50 near Echo Summit, surveyors reported the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year, which ties January 2012 as the driest reading on record. The figure is just 7 percent of the average for the April 1 measurement, which is the time the snowpack is usually at its peak. The snow melt provides a third of the water used by farms and cities.

It’s another unwelcome record we’re heard about in recent days. This past week, the media played up news that 2013 was the driest calendar year ever. State officials already are urging everyone to start conserving water now.
Orange trees were pulled out during the last drought.

“While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “And every Californian can help by making water conservation a daily habit.”

Around the Valley, field scout Carlos Silva reports water is a big topic around coffee shops for growers. “They’re hoping for rain, but there’s nothing,” Carlos says. Already, they are making the crop plans based on skimpy water availability.

During the last drought, we saw lots of fallow fields and orchards with uprooted trees. Groundwater was tapped out.

In Sacramento, officials will be convening a drought summit tomorrow, January 7.

Farmers could leave fields fallow if a drought hits the state.
Water transfers and drought preparedness will be the topic of a day-long meeting in Sacramento sponsored by the state Board? Department of Food and Agriculture and DWR. Everyone – from the federal Bureau of Reclamation to the Westlands Water District – will be there.

Says state Ag Secretary Karen Ross: “California’s farmers and ranchers need to prepare for a potentially significant drought year.”

Food and Ag President Craig McNamara stresses everyone needs to start preparing now to lessen the long-term consequences of a drought. “We are sounding the alarm on behalf of the agricultural industry.”

Around here, growers are thinking short-term plans as well –to grow or to not to grow crops in 2014? Their livelihoods could be on the line.

For now, let’s hope for some rain and snow soon.

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