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Higher Prices for Ketchup and Tomatoes? California’s Drought is Hurting Tomato Farmers

No matter if you’re whipping up a cacciatore, amatriciana or a homemade pizza, you’re going to need one thing: tomatoes.

But while most of the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. — fresh, canned, and otherwise — come from California, factors like the ongoing drought, rising fuel prices, and a changing climate are making the fruit harder and more expensive to grow. And that’s prompting some California farmers to consider raising other, hardier crops that require less irrigation.

Farmers Brace for Water Cuts to Help River

As the Colorado River water crisis deepens amid withering drought in the West, Imperial Valley growers with historic rights to water from the river are making calculations on whether to farm or fallow.

This month, the Imperial Irrigation District, which supplies Colorado River water to farmers in America’s largest growing region for winter vegetables, joined other California water agencies in offering to take a dramatic cut in the amount of water they pull from the river.

Water Deliveries Halted to Farmers in Oregon, California

The Klamath Irrigation District in southern Oregon has reversed course and now says it has complied with a U.S. government order to stop delivering water to farmers in the drought-stricken area.

The district’s directors initially defied the federal government’s order to shut off water to the Klamath Project, but the Klamath Irrigation District has since closed a canal after federal officials threatened to withhold millions in drought assistance, the Capital Press reported Wednesday.

California Drought 2022: Two Water Districts Eye Hefty Colorado River Cuts

Two powerful Southern California water districts are actively negotiating an agreement for hefty voluntary cuts of Colorado River supply to farmers and reduced delivery of water to greater Los Angeles, as part of urgent efforts across seven states and Mexico to stave off the collapse of the drought-stricken river system that provides drinking water and irrigation for nearly 40 million people.

Responding to a June mandate from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for all those who rely on the river to cut 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water usage within 60 days, Imperial Irrigation District and Metropolitan Water District officials are negotiating “around half a million, between 400,000 and 500,000 acre-feet” in combined reductions, IID general manager Enrique Martinez said on Monday.

WATER 101: A Recap of Where We Are Amidst a Historic Drought

Local farmers may soon be forced to bite the bullet and find ways to use significantly less water in 2023 — potentially for a lot longer.

This drastic measure may come as a result of an emergency water conservation effort to prevent further depletion of the Valley’s main source of water, the Colorado River. If less water flows down the Colorado River, the consequences could be catastrophic for the two reservoirs — lakes Mead and Powell — that feed into the so-called basin states.

For example, if water levels in Lake Mead continue dropping, it could bring water and hydropower to a grinding halt, all due to a relentless drought over two decades.

Governor Declares Drought in Four More Oregon Counties

It’s been a rainy April, but prolonged drought is still impacting parts of Oregon. On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown issued drought declarations for four Oregon counties.

Deschutes, Grant, Lake and Malheur counties are the latest where the governor has declared a drought. These counties join Gilliam, Morrow, Jefferson, Crook, Harney, Klamath and Jackson counties, for which the governor declared a drought earlier in 2022.

Irrigation Districts Plan for Another Dry Year as Drought Mars Rio Grande

Water districts in El Paso and southern New Mexico will start releasing irrigation water in June, as drought continues to pummel the Rio Grande Basin.

Elephant Butte Reservoir will open its gates June 1, releasing water for southern New Mexico, far west Texas and Mexico. The Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) announced April 22 an allotment of 5 inches of water per acre, a far cry from the full allotment of 36 inches. El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (EPCWID1) has yet to announce its allotments but manager Jesús Reyes estimated it will be 18 inches of water per acre.

“(18 inches) is about what we had last year,” Reyes said. “We try and conserve as much as we can because we’ve been in and out of drought for 20 years.”

Farmers Key to Renewable Energy Future

California is progressing toward its goal of achieving 100% renewable and carbon-neutral electricity by 2045, and agriculture may be an integral part of the solution.

Farmers statewide have invested in renewable-energy technologies near vineyards, row-crop farms and atop walnut dryers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8% of California farms have an on-site renewable-energy system.

Aaron Barcellos, who farms row crops and trees in Merced and Fresno counties, took advantage of federal tax incentives and invested in constructing two solar systems that total 1.4 megawatts to offset the farm’s energy usage.

As Drought Persists, Minimal Water Deliveries Announced for the Central Valley Project

With California entering a third year of drought and its reservoirs at low levels, the federal government has announced plans to deliver minimal amounts of water through the Central Valley Project, putting many farmers on notice that they should prepare to receive no water from the system this year.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the project’s dams and canals, announced a zero-water allocation for irrigation districts that supply many farmers across the Central Valley. Cities that receive water from the project in the Central Valley and parts of the Bay Area were allocated 25% of their historical water use.

California’s Drought Endures: Feds’ Central Valley Project Announces 0% Water for Farmers

Farmers in California’s Central Valley are in for another brutal summer of drought.

The federal government announced initial 2022 water allocations Wednesday for customers of the Central Valley Project, and the figures were dismal: Most irrigation districts in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys can expect to receive no deliveries from the project’s vast network of reservoirs and canals.