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As California Gets Its Final Winter Rains, Drought Is Setting Up a Water Battle

On a recent day in the San Joaquin Valley, the rain falling outside was cause for celebration for Aaron Fukuda.

“For us, water is a mood,” Fukuda, president of the Tulare Irrigation District, said over the phone.

As a third consecutive dry year sets in on California, drought has become a source of stress and anxiety for farmers and communities. But rain brings happiness. If only the rain came more often, Fukuda stated.

As It Enters a Third Year, California’s Drought Is Strangling the Farming Industry

The school is disappearing.

Westside Elementary opened its doors nearly a century ago here in the San Joaquin Valley, among the most productive agricultural regions on earth. As recently as 1995, nearly 500 students filled its classrooms. Now 160 students attend and enrollment is falling fast.

This was where the children of farmworkers learned to read and write, often next to the children of the farm owners who employed their parents.

Program to Replace Nitrate-Laden Drinking Water Moving Too Slowly, Advocates Say

Free water deliveries have started for some San Joaquin Valley residents with nitrate contaminated wells.

But advocates worry that nine months into the state’s nitrate control program, outreach has been lacking and not enough wells have been tested.

The nitrate control program launched in May of 2021. It offers free water deliveries for residents whose wells test over the limit for nitrates. The program is mandated by the State Water Resources Control Board and funded by nitrate polluters throughout the valley.

Opinion: The Power of Water

Water made California.

The statement is often made about what is arguably the largest and most complex water transfer systems ever created by mankind — the California State Water Project — and its kissing cousin the federal Central Valley Project.

Opinion: Community Voices: The Central Valley Needs Real Solutions for Its Water Shortage

In the San Joaquin Valley, water is becoming a commodity equal to life and death.

California is a powerhouse of food production, growing some 40 percent of the country’s fruit, vegetables and nuts. However, the agriculture industry depends on a water supply that’s increasingly fragile and unreliable as the climate warms. As a means to increase access to livable drinking water, community and elected leaders alike are rallying behind “Building More Dams.” But this is simply not a viable solution.

“Pray for Snow, Not Rain”: State Enacts Holiday Water Cutback Despite Rain in Forecast

Following a sizable atmospheric river dumping rain and snow in the San Joaquin Valley and central Sierra Nevada mountain range and another on the way for Christmas, it appears that Valley communities won’t be earning any immediate extra water supplies.

Earlier this month, California’s Department of Water Resources announced that, for the first time ever, it would start the 2022 water year with a zero water allocation for water users relying on the California aqueduct and other state canal systems.

As Water Officials Repair Damage From Subsidence, They Demand Prevention From Groundwater Agencies

State water officials have asked local groundwater agencies to better prevent land subsidence. Simultaneously, the state is also working to fix the damage caused by sinking land.

Subsidence is caused by the over-pumping of groundwater. It occurs in many parts of California but is especially pronounced in the San Joaquin Valley during drought years.

In Bakersfield, Many Push for Bringing Back the Flow of the Long-Dry Kern River

The Kern River cascades from the Sierra Nevada in a steep-sided canyon, coursing through granite boulders, and flows to the northeast side of Bakersfield. There, beside cottonwoods and willows, the last of the river collects in a pool where dragonflies hover and reeds sway in the breeze.

Then the river dies, disappearing into the sand.

Decades ago, the Kern flowed all the way through Bakersfield. But so much water has been appropriated and diverted in canals to farmland that the river has vanished in the city, leaving miles of dry riverbed.

Now, a group of residents is campaigning to bring back a flowing river in Bakersfield.

Water Bill Debt Has Hit Valley Families Hard. Help Could Be Coming for Some – But Not All

More than 140 water districts in the central San Joaquin Valley have yet to apply for state water debt relief, leaving thousands of customers susceptible to water shutoffs after the state’s moratorium expires on Dec. 31. The deadline to apply is Monday at 5 p.m. California residents who fell behind on paying their water bills during the pandemic are protected from having their water shut off through the end of the year.

 

Opinion: Drought Has Big Impacts on California Agriculture

As California experiences a second year of drought, with no end in sight, the effects on California’s largest-in-the-nation agricultural industry are profound and perhaps permanent.

State and federal water agencies have cut deliveries to some farmers to zero while others, thanks to water rights dating back more than a century, still have access to water.