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California Water Woes Trickle Down To Local Farmers

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The hope of rain this coming weekend doesn't diminish the fact that California is staring at a potential statewide drought as officials order counties to limit access to water for farming.

West Sacramento farmer Dave Vierra says half the rain totals expected make it clear to him the drought is real.

"There is no catching up at this point," Vierra said.

He runs Dave's Pumpkin Patch but serves up a variety of vegetables. He said he's already seen a 10-15% increase in irrigation costs.

"We very rarely irrigate this early, this much," he said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a drought emergency, but only for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Newsom says drought conditions are especially bad in those counties. It comes as California is expected to face another devastating wildfire season after a winter with little precipitation.

Vierra says he's lucky he has access to river water, but other farmers aren't so lucky. The California Water Resources Control Board sent out letters to 40,000 people warning of "potential water supply shortages," and irrigation districts have done the same to limit access to lakes and reservoirs.

"The guys down south, they are big into almonds. So when they have a water shortage, they got to put the water to almonds first because that's their perennial crop, that's their forever drop. So then they stop growing other things," Vierra said.

Other things like corn and tomatoes. Experts say less supply, higher gas prices and increased demand with restaurants reopening post-pandemic mean food costs will go up.

"And probably more rapidly than you think," Vierra said.

California native Ken McCarthy says it's happened before and it has a cascading effect.

"The water issue is never going to go away after seeing reservoirs," he said.

Old habits die hard.

"I see people watering a lot or washing their cars and I'm going, 'That's going to impact us at some point in time,' " McCarthy said,

It's already impacted Vierra. The winter wheat is dry and yield is down in a year where he predicts a long hot summer.

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