After a rainy winter, Santa Maria Valley growers are feeling good about the region’s water supply.
Winter in the valley was bookended by severe weather, said Richard Quandt, president of the Guadalupe, Calif.-based Grower-Shippers Association of Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo.
“We had a rainy season at the very first, now we’re having some pretty significant rain at the end,” he said.
Rainfall this season has been well above average, and the groundwater basins that the valley relies on for its water are replenished as a result, Quandt said.
Even if heavy rains are throwing a few wrenches in some growers’ spring harvests, the longtime effect is good, he said.
“We’re in fine shape in terms of water.”
Because of their local source, Santa Maria Valley growers don’t have to rely on water from the state of California, Quandt said.
“We’re not forced to turn off our water” like people in other parts of California because of shortages, he said.
Most of the ranches farmed by Santa Maria, Calif.-based Adam Bros. Produce Sales Inc. use well water, said Kevin Jordan, the company’s director of sales and marketing.
Above-average rainfall this winter means most of those wells are well-stocked heading into the valley’s summer deals, he said.
Beginning with rains early last fall, the Santa Maria Valley got more than 25 inches heading into spring harvests, said Steve Adlesh, sales and marketing director for Guadalupe-based Beachside Produce.
Excessive moisture affected the quality of vegetables in December and January, sending prices on many California vegetable commodities soaring, Adlesh said.
Between 60 and 80 acres of Beachside’s production in a flood plain were flooded, he said.
But the longterm effects for the valley are positive.
“It was very good for recharging the aquifers and groundwater,” Adlesh said.
While Santa Maria Valley growers have no water worries at the moment, that could change if the state passes new regulations that would require growers to treat water before irrigating fields with it, Quandt said.
“They’re proposing new standards that are totally unachievable,” he said. “Farmers are very, very worried.”
The new regulations would apply only to growers in region 3, along California’s central coast, Quandt said.
While it’s unknown exactly what form the standards will take, growers are bracing themselves for the inevitable.
“We don’t know the contents, but they’re going to adopt something,” he said.