Outside of Mark Larson’s home are 12 acres of blossoming Bird of Paradise. Flowers have grown on his farm since the 1960s. “Once you get used to the country and all this open space it’s hard to go back to the city,” said Larson. However, he says agriculture is disappearing from San Diego County, due in part to the cost of and access to water.
Last week, California announced initial allocations of just 5 percent of requested supplies from the State Water Project in the coming year. That was actually an improvement from last December, when the state called for zero allocations for 2022. The eventual allotment for this year eventually rose to 5 percent.
California water agencies that serve 27 million people will get just 5% of what they requested from the state to start 2023, water officials announced Thursday. The news of limited water comes as California concludes its driest three-year stretch on record and as water managers brace for a fourth year with below-average precipitation.
The latest drought monitor, released Thursday, showed some minor improvements in drought status. Most of these improvements came along California’s northern coast but the areas experiencing the worst of the drought, like the San Joaquin Valley, saw no improvement. The monitor stops collecting data for its weekly updates at 4 a.m. Pacific time, so much of the rain that fell from the early week storm was not accounted for on this week’s update. This means the state may be in a bit better shape on next week’s monitor, but still has a long way to go to escape drought.
Balancing the state’s groundwater supplies for a sustainable future may not be easy due to severe drought and ongoing economic challenges facing farmers. “We’ve got the lowest prices and highest production costs and the least-reliable water supply that we’ve had since I’ve been farming,” said Bill Diedrich of Firebaugh, who farms row crops and permanent crops on the west side in Madera and Fresno counties. “We’ve had one or the other but not all three at the same time.”