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California Farmers: We Are Getting 'Much Less Water'


Not all farmers have unlimited access to water. How much water a farmer has varies from district to district in California because of a complicated water rights system. We're going to talk now with Dan Errotabere. He and his family have 5,200 acres of everything from alfalfa to grapes, but it's his almond crop that has been particularly devastated by this drought. Dan Errotabere joins us from his farm in Riverdale, California. Thanks so much for being with us.

DAN ERROTABERE: Thank you for letting me be on.

MARTIN: So what's happened to your crops?

ERROTABERE: Well, I mean, I'm not being able to grow all that I grow. I follow 1,200 acres that normally would go into tomatoes, garlic, onions and garbanzos. And I'm trying to find ways to support the crops that I am currently growing, which are almonds, some pistachios and wine grapes. But the challenges is that with the limited water supply, the sustainability of an operation comes into question because I can't shrink the farm to levels that are unsustainable.

MARTIN: There are residents, though, in California in different rural, agricultural communities who are upset because when they turn their faucets on, they're getting dirty water with sand in it because there are farmers who are drilling really deeply to get groundwater. And they are blaming those farmers for the scarcity problem. What do you say to those folks?

ERROTABERE: Well, I know those areas. They're more on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley than they are here. But I think the thing that's not well understood is that when we have shortage of service supply, that's been going on since 1992 when a lot of water got diverted from the projects out into the environment. And so to the criticism that we're taking all the water, we're not. We are essentially getting much less water. And I'm trying to make do with it. I get an annual allocation of my water supply. So recalling in 1977 a drought worse than this year, we had 25 percent. This year we get zero. And so a lot of it has to do with environmental restrictions of project during a drought that makes it much more severe than it would be otherwise.

MARTIN: What's the effect then on your family?

ERROTABERE: Well, you know, this is my life. And for us and my two brothers and their kids and such, it puts financial stress on them. And as the bankers are taking a look at, you know, how sustainable are you, the challenges grow and grow. And the viability of a California farm like we are, which we grow fruits and vegetables and nuts and crops, are going to get more and more severe.

MARTIN: Dan Errotabere is a farmer from Riverdale, California. He serves on the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Thanks so much for talking with us, Dan.

ERROTABERE: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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