Wells are depleted, crops are at stake, and workers are in limbo as California’s drought hits the San Joaquin Valley

Turea, CA-April 21: On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Turrea, Calif., Workers installed an irrigation line to water almond tree rootstocks along Road 36. Due to severe droughts and new regulations, some California producers are considering terminating agriculture.  (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A worker has set up an irrigation line to water almond tree rootstocks along Road 36 in Turea, California. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As yet another season of drought returns to California, the mood is getting more and more severe throughout the vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Famous for its abundance of dairy products, low crops, vines, almonds, pistachios and fruit trees, this agricultural center is now from the effects of the last severe drought that left the area geologically depressed and mentally traumatic. I’m still upset.

Here, despite the fact that the valley is now preparing for another dry spell for an uncertain period, legislative representatives have asked Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a drought emergency. Some are openly questioning the future of agriculture. Many small, predominantly Latino communities also face the risk of well depletion.

Drought is nothing new to California and the West, and generations of farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have endured years of dryness over the last century. Often they did so by drilling more wells.

However, some producers say they are now facing an insurmountable convergence of forces. It’s like a never-ending loop of hot and dry weather, new environmental protection, and reduced water allocation.

John Guthrie pumps water from a 3,000 gallon cistern to a water trailer.

John Guthrie pumps water from a 3,000-gallon cistern into a water trailer and returns it to ranch headquarters in Porterville, California. Guthrie uses water to protect the coral from dust. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“We are proud of the family history in this part of the state,” said John Guthrie, president of the Tulare County Agricultural Department. “Otherwise, I would seriously consider withdrawing from this business.”

The rancher and farmer said his family had been working here for over 150 years here. But he wonders how long it will last.

Most recently, surface water state and federal allocations have Sierra Nevada — This move is expected to force some growers to look for additional water sources underground to prevent the farm from being devastated.

Even more frustrating, according to producers, is the complex legislation passed in 2014, which is consistent with the amount of water that will return all groundwater taken from wells to the aquifer by 2040 during the last drought. I need to let you. Acres of farmland that are not produced throughout the state.

John Guthrie has a cow behind him on his cow ranch and farm.

John Guthrie has been on his ranch and farm in his family for 150 years. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“Things were tough enough, without having to deal with the regulations that are getting trickier every day,” Guthrie said.

Especially in recent weeks, Republicans in the Central Valley have urged Newsom to declare a state-wide drought emergency. This will allow state regulators to relax water quality and environmental standards that limit water supply from California’s water hub, the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta.They recently got angry with Newsom Declared a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties only..

Many of the Turrea counties are located above groundwater basins, helping farmers compensate when there is little or no surface water available. However, the unlimited pumping between the historic drought of 2012-16 and the previous drought of 2007-09 caused a series of events that proved to be disastrous.

Large farms have been drilled to a depth of more than 1,000 feet to maintain thirsty citrus orchards and almond and pistachio groves that have drawn hedge funds and large corporations into the business.

Hanford wheat field.

A wheat field along 2nd Avenue in Hanford, California. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“I’m proud of the family history in this part of the state. Otherwise, I would seriously consider withdrawing from this business.”

John Guthrie, rancher, Tulare County Agricultural Director

An empty reservoir where John Guthrie is reaching to the ground.

A reservoir without water in April because it didn’t rain at John Guthrie Ranch in Porterville, California. In a normal year, the reservoir has water all year round. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As farmers driven more wells into the globe, groundwater levels plummeted, old wells were depleted, land sank up to two feet a year in some places, and infrastructure was damaged. Also, as groundwater levels fell, pesticides and nitrates from fertilizers and animal waste leached into the poor’s private groundwater sources. Agricultural worker community It is located in Toolsville, East Orosi, East Porterville, Fresno County, and other locations such as Early Fire Security in Fresno County.

Burg in these and other regions has gained international attention after the wells that have served them for more than half a century have become dry and polluted. The unincorporated area of ​​Turea County was particularly hit.

As a result, the family was forced to stop showering and dump the water in the bucket into the toilet to flush it.

“Cheers and chantingSí se puede!—Yes, you can — I called when Newsom visited early-fire security and signed Senate Bill 200, a safe and affordable drinking water fund. The bill has secured up to $ 130 million annually for safe drinking water projects.

Jovita Torres and his friend Rodolfo Romero are outside the house.

In the excursion of a poorly-fired peasant in Sanger, Jovita Torres left with her friend and neighbor Rodolfo Romero. Torres had to replace a 60-foot-deep well with a 200-foot well to access the water. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“The governor played his part by coming here to listen to our problems before signing the bill, but our problems didn’t end that day,” said the resident. Said community activist Jovita Torres.

“I’m still getting dirty water out of the faucet,” she said. “And bottled water is still delivered to our community every Friday.”

Her neighbor, Rodolfo Romero, 95, wasn’t surprised.

“What’s happening now,” he said with a bitter smile. “Climate change is associated with political forces that are too big to stop.

“The people who make important decisions are elected officials and peasants who have the money and power,” he added. “We have no power, so as I see, there is no longer a way to live away from our wells. That time is over.”

Rodol Foromero is located near a 60-foot deep well and a pressure tank that supplies water to the house.

Rodol Foromero is located near a 60-foot deep well and a pressure tank that supplies water to the house. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Leslie Martinez of the advocacy group Leadership Council didn’t go that far.

“State and county agencies must take responsibility,” she said. “And we have to take responsibility for overlooking the pollutant plume from pumping large amounts of groundwater and failing to address the basic human rights of having a reliable and clean water source in disadvantaged communities.

“They have treated these people like disposable workers. This is painful and wrong because they helped build the agricultural industry in the area,” she added.

Seasonal droughts are typical of California’s Mediterranean climate, but the effects of global warming from burning fossil fuels are now The condition is more likely to fall into the dry season, And it’s hard to get out, experts say.

This tendency towards more frequent and more severe droughts comes at the time of major changes in agriculture.

Irrigation sprinklers spray water along Bethel Avenue in Kingsburg.

Irrigation sprinklers blow water along Bethel Avenue in Kingsburg, California. Due to severe drought and new regulations, some California growers are considering terminating agriculture. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Turea County, one of Central California’s top agricultural producers, is named after Lake Turea, once the largest freshwater area west of the Mississippi River. Farmers drained the lake in the 1930s and turned desert scrubs into arable land.

Just west of Sequoia National Park, the 4,839-square-mile county is the territory of the Turea County Agricultural Department, which boasted 5,000 members in the 1960s.

Since then, the number of members has dropped to a record low of 1,200. This is the result of small producers being sold out and integrated as agricultural production shifts to larger farms.

This year, half of the county has been hit by a severe drought, ranchers are eradicating herds of cattle months earlier than usual, and farmers are lettuce and onions to devote their precious water supply to higher levels. We are making tough decisions about idling low crops such as. We value permanent planting such as almonds and pistachios.

This recent drought has also caused unthinkable agricultural land insecurity and has brought about a new future for fragmentation, industrial parks and habitat development.

Dennis England, Director of the Water Resources Program of the Turea County Water Commission, said:

“In the long run, we hope our economy will be replaced by something else, perhaps factories and business parks,” she said.

“Americans need to make important decisions. Do they want to grow their produce locally or in Mexico and China?”

Almond grower Dino Giacomazzi

Dino Giacomazzi stands in a field of almond trees.

Dino Jacomazzi, a fourth-generation farmer with a family history of more than a century in the Central Valley, stands in a field of almond trees eight years ago in Gosen. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

It’s not the future grower Dino Giacomazzi wants to see, but he admits that change is inevitable.

In 2014, in the middle of the worst drought in state history, Giacomazzi closed his family’s 126-year-old dairy farm (the oldest in the state) and began farming almonds instead.

“I couldn’t find a way forward with’Caudom’,” he said. “We had a very old 400 acre facility in an increasingly regulated world of air, food and water, and we faced low milk prices for years. Was. “

Close up of almond trees in the field.

Eight-year-old trees grow almonds in a field owned by Dino Jacomazzi in Gosen, California. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

But it wasn’t a smooth transition.

“After all … California farmers planted too many almonds and oversupplied the market,” said the 52-year-old. “Then, a coronavirus pandemic broke out, raising the price of almonds to market abroad.”

Whiplash weather patterns due to climate change and state groundwater regulations just beginning to come into force make the future even more uncertain.

“Americans need to make important decisions,” said Giacomazzi. “Do they want to grow their produce locally or in Mexico and China?”

This story was originally Los Angeles Times..

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