The Sacramento Valley is 450 miles long and has in wetter times been called “America’s Breadbasket.” Produce grown there includes tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, asparagus, and garlic.
What those crops have in common is that they need water.
Paper water rights are worthless when reservoir levels shrink, leading to cuts in water deliveries.
A story reported by the non-profit news organization, CalMatters, paints the gloomy picture of what is happening to growers, ranchers and wildlife sanctuaries in the Sacramento Valley. High dollar acreage that came with federally managed water rights from Lake Shasta are losing their value because water is not available, leading landowners to question whether they can stay in business into next year.
Lake Shasta is critically low this year. CNN reports that Shasta Lake’s water levels are now less than half of historical average. “According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, only agriculture customers who are senior water right holders and some irrigation districts in the Eastern San Joaquin Valley will receive the Central Valley Project water deliveries this year,” the news agency writes. This could translate into over 350,000 acres of farmland in the Sacramento Valley fallowed this year.
Wikimedia Commons, Don Graham, August 2010.