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Drought Stretches Calif. Farmers' Water Supply

Photo by Curtis Haynes

The Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant near Tracy, Calif.

Photo by Curtis Haynes

“The water is so short this year that it’s driven the price of water up,” says Frank Zonneveld, who grows nuts, hay, corn and tomatoes in Kings and Fresno counties

So since he can no longer rely on surface deliveries from watersheds or the federal Central Valley Project, he’s turning to underground wells instead.

“And I don’t know where all my wells are sitting at. As the water table’s drawn down more heavily, some of my pumps could be sitting shallower, and they could be out of reach of water.  And then I’ll have to – if the well’s deep enough, I’ll have to lower the pumps. If not, I’ll have to dig new wells.”

~Frank Zonneveld

But well drillers’ waiting lists are long – several months for Zonneveld, more than a year for another farmer.

And then, there are the farmers who grow crops in the Westlands area – the western part of Kern and Kings counties.  They’re the ones who rely solely on the State Water Project – and on Friday, they learned they’ll get no water at all this year.  They don’t have wells to turn to, meaning they’ll have to choose which parts of their land to leave empty.

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