During the winter, when the Central Valley’s fields are quiet, the Westside Pool Hall in Mendota fills with farm workers, like Jose Gonzalez Cardenas.
“If there’s no water, we’re not going to have work,” Cardenas said through a translator.
According to a report from University of the Pacific, thousands of Valley farm workers could be out of work this summer if the drought persists. Maria Rivera is one of them. She already knows she won’t have work in the melon fields this year.
“The company I work for has already told its employees that they’re only going to plant one field,” Rivera said, also through a translator. That's down from about 60 in a typical year.
Mendota is a poor city on the west side of Fresno County that revolves around agriculture. City Council member Joseph Riofrio owns this pool hall. He says the community is already bracing for the drought’s impact.
“We’re the facilitators that need to coordinate how people will get food, and how they’re going to get help paying the light bill. There are so many problems that come with being in this part of California, and being dependent on agriculture,” Riofio said.
Down the street, at La Fiesta Meat Market, farmworker Aurelio Duran said if it doesn’t rain, he might leave the region.
“Right now, I’m on unemployment. Perhaps I will need to look for work somewhere else,” Duran said through a translator.
During the 2009 drought, unemployment in Mendota topped 40 percent and the Valley as a whole lost 6,000 farm jobs. With water even scarcer this year, the economic impact could be even worse.
Some areas in the Sacramento region will have to reduce water use by 36 percent under proposed emergency drought rules from state water regulators. How urban suppliers will reach that goal varies. Enforcement is likely to increase everywhere.
(AP) - State regulators are ordering some farms to stop pumping from streams for the second year in a row.
As California enters the dry season, the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows one category expanding.
In spite of a California Appeals Court ruling, customers of private water suppliers may still have tiered rates based on usage, not on cost, and customers of private utilities may still see their rates go up.
California Governor Jerry Brown is calling on local water agencies to adjust their pricing structures as a way to promote conservation. But a state court ruling issued today could undermine those efforts.