Growers in the Westlands Water District—which includes western Fresno and Kings counties—are not counting on any federal irrigation water as they make their plans for the 2009 crop year.
Instead, they'll rely on wells to provide irrigation water. Those without wells or without the capacity to serve all of their acreage will leave fields fallow, according to a news release from the Sacramento-based California Farm Bureau Federation.
"I think what they are banking on is any groundwater they can pump because they're estimation of what the Bureau of Reclamation will be delivering at this point is nothing," says Sara Woolf, spokesperson for Westlands.
The State Water Project, which serves growers farther south in Kern County, has warned it may deliver only 15 percent of contracted amounts in 2009.
Westlands is served by the Central Valley Project, a series of federal reservoirs and canals. During the winter and spring, from northern California is pumped across the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to fill San Luis Reservoir, which sits southeast of San Jose.
During the summer, water from San Luis Reservoir is fed down the California Aqueduct to growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
But recent court rulings have restricted pumping across the delta to protect the federally protected delta smelt and now the longfin smelt.
San Luis Reservoir reached its lowest point in history in September, when it resembled a bathtub with rings around it.
Since then, Woolf says, "It's actually filling ever so slowly from the place it was back in September. We were never to the point where the quality or it couldn't be sucked out so low where it couldn't be utilized."
The only commodity that may expand acreage within Westlands is pistachios, since the trees can tolerate brackish well water and the nuts are high value, Woolf says.
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