Desert Farmers Concerned, Prepared for Extreme Drought

Carmela Karcher

Currently, no water is running through pipes and canals for some farmers in Northern California.

It’s not even June.

Farmers there have experienced this before, but the concern of that happening is starting to trickle into the Coachella Valley.

“To answer your question, yes, I certainly am concerned,” George Tudor shared.

Tudor is the owner of Tudor Ranch in Mecca.

He has been around farming his entire life, but knowing that water isn’t available for some farmers in California is a cause for concern.

“My life blood is dependent on water,” Tudor said. “Without it, we don’t have grapes, we can’t provide jobs for the people here. You know, things will have to change.”

Hotter temperatures are causing problems, like less fruit quality and more pests.

But Tudor knows the Coachella Valley is unique with how it uses water compared to other parts of the state.

“We are not quite as in much of a dire situation as the rest of the state because we are not dependent upon water flow from the Sierra’s,” Tudor explained. “A long time ago, we realized where we farm. All of our reservoirs are lined with plastic or concrete and our deliveries are all underground so you’re not losing any water there. Ag water doesn’t just go to ag and it’s done. It actually does go back into the aquifer as it has done for years.”

Tudor Ranch has acres upon acres of grape vines, lemon trees and date palms.

To upkeep this amount of land requires a lot of water.

But farmers have been cultivating crops here in the desert for decades.

Because of that, Tudor says he and other farmers are already ahead in conservation.

“Almost 90% is drip irrigation or micro sprinklers, which is the most efficient way you can water your crops,” he said. “Two years ago, we put in sensors in the ground that measure water tension. It basically says how hard that plant is pulling to get water. There are 15 different instruments you can use to get that information.”

Some are even using special drones that can measure how much water is needed in a certain plot of land.

All to stay efficient, especially in a drought.., with the hope others will do the same.

“Hopefully people do their part and let their lawns go brown,” Tudor continued. “Letting your lawn go brown doesn’t lose jobs. You take out ag ground, you’re losing jobs.”

Currently, water agencies across the state have tailored, localized approaches based on the area’s needs.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom warned that the state could soon intervene if there’s no significant reduction in water use.

Those changes could be seen in the next couple of months.

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