Water Finally Reaching Growers in Fresno Irrigation District

In a normal year, farmers would see water delivered for six months in the Fresno Irrigation District. This year, they’re getting a fraction of that but that still beats the zero allocation some growers are getting.

The almonds are developing nicely in Mitch Sangha‘s Fresno County orchard. He has been putting his old well to the test since winter — pumping groundwater because the drought has severely reduced water deliveries. But this past weekend, the water finally flowed as the Fresno Irrigation District began a six-week-long delivery.

“It’s going to help us a lot. Hopefully it will recharge the underground and hopefully we can shut our pumps off and let the water table build back up,” said Sangha.

“It’s a large district. Its 245,000 acres,” said Fresno Irrigation District General Manager Gary Serrato

He says 4,000 growers now have access to the much needed water.

“The thought is that by starting up in June because there are wells going dry and groundwater tables are dropping that it buys them time as well,” said Serrato.

Sangha says he’ll take whatever water he can get. The constant groundwater pumping impacts homes which rely on the same underground aquifer.

“Our domestic pump on this rental house is only 60 feet so when I turn this pump on that runs out of water,” said Sangha.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on our groundwater this year, and we’ve seen historical drops like we’ve never seen before,” said Serrato.

Sangha says the delivery will help bring his almonds into production and will help raisin growers get through a critical period. Still, some farmers rely solely on the water deliveries and don’t have underground wells to pump groundwater.

Serrato says this is the third driest year on record. Only the droughts of 1976-77 and 1932-33 were worse.