Westlands Water District Approves Emergency Water for Westside City of Huron

Edited by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday Reporter and Editor

During its monthly meeting yesterday, Westlands Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved making water available to the City of Huron, as the City struggles with a desperate situation of diminishing water resources in the face of the drought.

Westlands Water District Map

As the State of California experiences unprecedented water supply conditions, not only is the agricultural industry suffering, many rural communities are struggling to meet basic water needs. The City of Huron, in Fresno County, has experienced the same perilous situation, for its approximately 6,900 residents and additional temporary farm workers. With unemployment hovering just above 35%, Huron recently approached Westlands about acquiring water to enable it to meet the City’s water needs.

Westlands Water District Board President Don Peracchi stated, “We are very pleased to be able to assist one of our local, rural communities during this difficult situation. Every day we hear of another family or community succumbing to a dry well. Unfortunately, situations like these are becoming all too commonplace.”

The City of Huron welcomed the recent news ensuring they would receive water from the District. Mayor Sylvia Chavez said, “Our community continues to suffer with the effects of the drought. We take for granted that water will remain plentiful, but the drought has depleted our reserves. We are thankful that Westlands was willing to work with us during this difficult situation.”

Earlier this year, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) initially denied the City of Huron’s request for assistance; at which point, the City turned to Westlands as an additional source. The issue was brought before Westlands’ board members who agreed to help the City look for viable solutions.

The drought has caused irreparable harm not only to agriculture but also to families, businesses and communities with effects that are far-reaching beyond this year. This decision will provide limited relief to a much greater problem.

Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the United States, is made up of more than 1,000 square miles of prime farmland in western Fresno and Kings Counties. Westlands currently has a contract with USBR for its annual supply of water to properly irrigate the district, yet USBR determines the allocation percentage it will supply. For example, USBR’s allocation percentage to Westlands for 2013 was 20% and for 2014 was 0%.

 

Sources: Gayle Holman, Westlands Water District; Jack Castro, City of Huron, CA

1200 California Farmers Urge D.C. Delegation to Fix Water Supply

Posted  on March 5th by the California Farm Water Coalition , an open letter dated February 24, 2014, from 1200 California farmers was written to senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress to “outline the immediate threat that the drought poses to California’s $44.7 billion agricultural sector, and to respectfully insist that members of the California Congressional Delegation set aside their regional, ideological and political differences and work together to address the water supply crisis.”

The letter said, “The stakes could not be higher and time is of essence.” . . . “What happens this year will fundamentally change the face of California’s agriculture forever.”

Signers of the letter were described as, “family farmers who have been good stewards of the land for generations, but are now facing catastrophic losses from which they may not recover.” These farmers are also concerned about the thousands of men and women working in the diverse who also face the uncertainty the drought means for their families.

While the farmers called the current drought a “natural disaster”, they also said that California’s water projects, the Federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, which were designed to provide reliable water supplies, even during droughts, and which met this challenge through previous droughts, no longer work as they were designed to work.

No Water Logo

They stated that California’s reservoirs in 2011 were filled to overflowing by a year of heavy rains and in 2013 were above average. But currently, California’s reservoirs are empty, the consequences of which are lost water supplies, depleted groundwater and higher farming costs and damage to aquifers “as the result of short-sighted and unbalanced application of environmental regulations.”

Acknowledging that laws to protect the environment are necessary, as farmers too are caretakers of the land, the signers pointed to the managing agencies, claiming they spent all of the stored water with no consideration for the future. “Operating the Projects in this manner is quite simply unsustainable.”

The authors of the letter were in complete agreement that the current two separate bills, one in the House and the other in the Senate, are “of absolutely no value. What’s needed is a single bill that can be enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President within the next few weeks. Anything less will be your collective failure.”

Continuing, “You cannot allow partisan or personal animosities to interfere with you doing your job.” . . . “You must set aside those distractions, show courage, vision and leadership, and roll up your sleeves to work together as professionals to resolve this complex problem.”

They concluded, “We need you – all of you, northern and southern, Republican and Democrat, House and Senate – to come together and find a way to fix this broken system, now, before it breaks us all.”

And, finally, “Get it done.”

 

Thanks to California Farm Water Coalition.