Local Leaders Ask Residents To Help Prevent Another Water Crisis

Could the water crisis that caused widespread unemployment across the valley in 2009 return in 2013?

That's what some Central Valley residents now fear after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week announced it would deliver only 20 percent of the water this year that west side farmers requested.

It's also what local leaders vowed they would fight at a news conference Monday sponsored by the California Latino Water Coalition.

It's been a dry water year for much of the Central Valley, but it may be about to get a lot worse for west side farmers like Joe Del Bosque.

"I'm already fallowing at least 350 to 300 acres," Del Bosque said, "and if I can't find water, some of the crops that I had planned to plant will not get planted and I'll fallow more land."

With a shallow snow pack, little rain and pumping restrictions due to environmental concerns, federal officials announced last week that west Fresno County farmers were going to get only 20 percent of the water they requested--down five per cent from what was originally promised--and that, Del Bosque says, will be devastating.

"I'm terribly concerned because on the westside the first people who are going to feel this are the farm workers because a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. A lot of people are going to be cut back in hours and also the small communities on the westside," he said.

It's a scenario Mendota Mayor Robert Silva remembers all too well.

"So what happened in 2009? I'll tell you what happened in 2009, we had a devastation with that community in Firebaugh, Mendota, Huron, San Joaquin, Orosi, Kerman. We all faced that problem," he said.

But, it's a problem that Silva says could return, if the valley doesn't get more water this season.

"Can we afford that? Absolutely not. So what's going to happen? The food lines, welfare, food stamps. Is that what we want? Absolutely not. So what do we have to do? Work together."

And "work together" is exactly what many Central Valley leaders pledged to do Monday at a news conference sponsored by the California Latino Water Coalition.

"If we want to preserve our economy and our way of life to maintain our agricultural economy," urged 16th District, valley representative Jim Costa. "We must break this cycle of water insecurity."

21st District Congressman David Valadao, agreed.

"It's not impossible. It's been done before, it can be done again."

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson, meanwhile, asked valley residents to help.

"Please, get with us. Write your congressman."

The question is now, can something be done in time to prevent the terrible unemployment and devastation of 2009 from happening again?

Let's hope so or, as Mayor Silva pointed out, it's something that could impact all of us.

"It's just not the farmers that are going to go broke.It's not just the farm workers that can't pay their bills, but it's the repair men. It's the people down the line all over Fresno County that are going to suffer," he said.