Drought brings expected water rations

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Water supplies like this one at the San Luis Reservoir are in danger of being rationed out in response to the drought conditions in Northern California.

It has been the driest spring in recorded history for Northern
California
– the state’s main source of drinking and irrigation water. And
in San Benito County, water officials are planning to put
imported

blue valve

water on a premium with rations of at least 5 percent starting
this month.
Northern California received a parching 0.79 inches of rainfall
in March, April and May. On June 4, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
proclaimed a statewide drought. Because Southern and Central
California depend on the northern half of the state for the
majority of water, any fluctuations in Northern California rainfall
can have massive implications on the rest of the state, said San
Benito County Water Resources Association Water Conservation
Program Manager Shawn Novack.
It has been the driest spring in recorded history for Northern California – the state’s main source of drinking and irrigation water. And in San Benito County, water officials are planning to put imported “blue valve” water on a premium with rations of at least 5 percent starting this month.

Northern California received a parching 0.79 inches of rainfall in March, April and May. On June 4, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought. Because Southern and Central California depend on the northern half of the state for the majority of water, any fluctuations in Northern California rainfall can have massive implications on the rest of the state, said San Benito County Water Resources Association Water Conservation Program Manager Shawn Novack.

Hollister has received 10.63 inches of rainfall for the year, about 3 inches short of the average. The majority of that rain, however, fell in the first three two months of the year, and like Northern California Hollister has been dried out with only 0.12 inches in March, April and May, a tiny fraction of the spring average of 3.52 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Farmers and ranchers will be hit hardest by both the drought and the water rations, and M & M Farms owner Romaldo Martin said he has 590 acres of farmland irrigated by blue valve water. He worries if the rations get too high, he might have to depend on his wells.

“If they cut us too much, it’s going to be a tough deal,” he said. “Naturally everybody is concerned about water and you have to plan ahead.”

Officials at the San Benito County Water Resources Association said they are planning at least a 5 percent cut in water allowances for blue valve water, a supply piped from Northern California and prized for its nutrients by farmers.

Ron Ross, San Benito County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner, said some farmers might have to change their crops if the blue valve water rations get too steep. He said many vegetable crops depend on high quality water and if farmers are forced to water them with ground water, the plants might die and the harvest might fail.

“Blue valve water is superb,” Ross said. “Some farmers use groundwater or well water, but both of those are poor quality and can only maintain certain crops.”

The governor’s 2008-2009 budget calls for an $11.9 bond to be used for improving water resources statewide.

The SBCWRA Manager of Administration and Finance Sara Singleton said the amount of the blue valve rations will be finalized this month and the 5 percent minimum rations could go up. Martin said he has been told to expect rations up to 30 percent.

Water association Interim District Manager Harry Blohm could not be reached for comment before press time regarding the exact amount of the planned water rations.

“The rations will be limited to what the farmers have,” Singleton said. “Once they use the rations, that’s it.”

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