[BAY FEATURE]Bay Area Drought Watch

BAY FEATURE

Coverage of California's looming water problem

No Federal Water Aid for Drought-Stricken California

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Without a lot more rain and snow, many California farmers caught in the state's drought can expect to receive no irrigation water this year from a vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs interlacing the state, federal officials announced Friday. Stephanie Chuang reports.

    Another blow to California’s water supply came on Friday when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced it would cut and eliminate its allotment to farm and water districts across the state.

    For the first time, the feds are cutting off 100-percent of its agricultural water supply with the Central Valley Project. That means a complete elimination this year of a water resource that supplies irrigation water to most farm districts in the Central Valley – the region where nearly half of all fruits and vegetables are grown in the United States. It’s a second blow after the state announced three weeks ago that it would drastically cut its water delivery system.

    MORE: California Farmers Won't Get Federal Water

    This means many ag workers out of a job. Blain Johnson, a spokesperson for the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, said they’re bracing for what could be rough times ahead.

    “Some of those folks working in ag, out of work because of the drought, may be accessing our pantries and we hope we can help,” she said.

    In fact, she said 50-percent of what the food bank delivers to the roughly 240 pantries it serves consists of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    “Produce is something we really keep an eye on because it’s the bulk of what we give out to hungry people in our area,” Johnson added.

    For Kenny Hockert, owner of Old World Food Truck, the drought has already put a dent in his pocket with seemingly higher produce and meat prices.

    “Prices will definitely go up and force people to buy produce from Mexico or other places,” said Hockert. “It’s going to affect prices of food but it also affects the access in quality of the food you want to buy.”

    But the impact goes beyond the agriculture industry and produce prices. The feds also supply many water districts in California, which in turn, supply water to millions of homes across the Bay Area.

    The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) serves 1.3 million people in parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It uses the federal allotment for “dry years” and said the move by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cuts that supply in half.

    The Contra Costa Water District serves half a million people in central and eastern parts of the county, but it uses the allotment as its main water supply. Getting only 50-percent will be tough, but the district added that it is also looking at other supplies, water transfers and conservation efforts.

    And Santa Clara Valley Water District, which serves just about the entire county of 1.8 million people, said it has very little local surface and reservoir water. Now, it’s out of a critical supply of imported water.

    All three water districts emphasized how much help they need from their customers in conserving, but all also said talk of mandatory rationing is premature and won’t happen until April, after the final water level numbers from winter are out.