President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Los Banos, Calif. Farmers in California's drought-stricken Central Valley said the financial assistance President Barack Obama delivered on his visit Friday does not get to the heart of California's long-term water problems. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Wally Skalij, Pool) (Wally Skalij)
Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News reported that it was a crushing reminder of the state's parched plight when federal officials announced Friday that the Central Valley Project -- California's largest water delivery system -- will provide no water this year to Central Valley farmers and only 50 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.
Farmers had been bracing for the bad news because California received less rain in 2013 than any year since it became a state in 1850. Despite some storms this month, the state is still grappling with low reservoirs and a Sierra Nevada snowpack that's 25 percent of normal.
This will particularly affect San Joaquin Valley farmers who are last in line to get federal water. Many will have to either heavily pump already overburdened wells, or let fields go unplanted this summer.
"California produces almost half of the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables. And without adequate water in California, food supplies from other states or other countries may be the only option to fill the gap," said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.
Wade predicted that farmers will leave 500,000 acres of land unplanted this year. Statewide, there are 8.1 million acres that farmers irrigate, and in many places they will produce crops this year with groundwater and local supplies.