SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California said Thursday that it plans to cut water deliveries to their second-lowest level ever next year, raising the prospect of rationing for cities and less planting by farmers.
The Department of Water Resources projects that it will deliver just 15 percent of the amount that local water agencies throughout California request every year.
Since the first State Water Project deliveries were made in 1962, the only time less water was promised was in 1993, but heavy precipitation that year ultimately allowed agencies to receive their full requests.
The reservoirs that are most crucial to the state’s water delivery system are at their lowest levels since 1977, after two years of dry weather and court-ordered restrictions on water pumping out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This year, water agencies received just 35 percent of the water they requested.
Farmers in the Central Valley say they’ll be forced to fallow fields, while cities from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego might have to require residents to ration water.
Mike Young, a fourth-generation farmer in Kern County, called the projections disastrous.
“For the amount of acres we’ve got, we’re not going to have enough water to farm,” he said.
Young said he will be forced to fallow a fifth of his 5,000 acres. Water will go to his permanent crops — pistachio, almond and cherry trees — but most of his tomatoes and alfalfa will not get planted.
“We’ve got to start spending money on next year’s crop now,” Young said.
Jim Beck, general manager of the Kern County Water Agency, noted that fewer plantings would yield fewer crops and a decrease in the number of farm hands hired.
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