Farmers struggle to water fields during drought
July 1, 2021 | View PDF
Area farmers are having a tough time watering their fields as this year’s Shafter Wasco Irrigation District allocation is a half acre foot of water for every acre of land the farmer owns.
The region is in another drought this year, making it difficult for farmers to water their crops enough for the crops to thrive.
In a strong year, the allocation is usually one acre foot of water for every acre.
Some farmers are electing to leave one or more of their fields fallow, which means that they will let them go this year, not having the field produce, to allow more water for the rest of their fields.
Others are electing to store their water and use it sparingly, in case the coming year is a very dry one, giving them a little cushion of water that they can utilize if needed. Still others are looking at buying water, which in these times, is a very expensive commodity. Some farmers have heard that it could go as high as $1,000.
Just south of Shafter, the farmers rely on the North Kern Water District, who gets their water from the Kern River, while the Semi Tropic Water District, just west of Wasco, gets their supplies from the California Aqueduct.
Stan Wilson, a local farmer who has gone through decades of challenges when it comes to this balancing act, said that the farmers locally depend a lot on pumping their own water, with the water from SWID not nearly enough to water their fields fully. He said they lost one of their wells that had rusted out and was allowing sand into the pipes, leaving it useless.
“The well was about 75 years old and just gave out,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that the prospect of buying water is an emergency thing and most farmers cannot afford to do so with the prices so high.
“Unless it is a life or death thing, buying the water is just too expensive,” Wilson said.
Another local farmer, who declined to be named in the article, said that farmers in the area are in a tough situation, with a lot of them having to sacrifice certain crops to get enough water for others on their lands.
“It is really unfair having to pick and choose what crops or fields to water, or how much can we short this field without it not killing the trees? It is an unfair decision to have to make and it really can be prevented,” the farmer said.
With work being done on a Ground Water Sustainability Plan locally, involving City Council members including Mayor Pro Tem Chad Givens, the issue of water and its usage is being looked at.