Clovis News

Clovis summit targets ag water problems

Westside farmer Joe Del Bosque has done just about all he can to maximize the water he uses on his farm. Now, he's hoping policymakers can provide him with a reliable supply.

Del Bosque, speaking at a water-use summit Tuesday in Clovis, has installed water-saving irrigation equipment to most of his 2,300 acres, which includes almonds, melons and asparagus.

He was among the westside growers hit hard by three consecutive dry years and regulatory decisions that pinched his supply of water. He got a 10% allocation two years ago.

"The problem is that as more people shift to permanent crops, it also puts us at greater risk," Del Bosque said. "You can't idle trees and come back next year. Farmers need to know they are going to have water."

But solving the state's water woes remains a challenge, said several speakers at this year's Intelligent Use of Water Summit. The event was sponsored by Rain Bird and the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State.

"We are managing the state's water resources in crisis conditions," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

Quinn said the state needs to focus on long-term solutions that include a delivery system around the environmentally fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, along with more above- and below-ground water storage.

The delta is a hub for delivering water to Valley farmers. But it's also been a source of concern for environmentalists who want to protect endangered fish species such as the delta smelt.

Farmers have blamed regulatory decisions protecting the fish for reducing their water supply.

"But any solution must be comprehensive and include all the players involved, if this is going to work," Quinn said.

One possible solution has been put on hold.

An $11 billion water bond that was supposed to be voted on this year, was pushed back to 2012.

Legislators feared voters were not in the mood for spending money during a budget crisis.

The bond was the cornerstone of the Legislature's five-bill water package, which would pay for underground water banking, ground-water protection, water recycling, regional projects and environmental upgrades in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Farmers and water district officials say they also continue to battle public perception that they want more water at the expensive of everyone else.

Jason Peltier, chief deputy general manager for Westlands Water District, said he still hears complaints that farmers don't care about the delta.

"People still think that we want to destroy it," Peltier said. "It is a good scare tactic, but it just would not happen. It is not a policy choice."