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Mar 19, 2014 10:23 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Fighting the drought, one water truck at a time

Some farmers are going to great lengths to fight the drought, paying a premium to bring millions of gallons of water in. Wednesday, trucks drove into Morro Creek Ranch one after the other to unload their bounty: nearly 4,000 gallons of water each. Since June of 2013, the avocado grove has brought in 42.4 million gallons of water and spent $1.7 million doing it, according to general manager Alan Cavaletto. This breaks down to four cents per gallon, at least double what people in Morro Bay currently pay for tap water, according to San Luis Obispo County water. "We never would have thought we'd have to go this far," Cavaletto said. "But once you've started... well, now we have to bring the crop in." Morro Creek Ranch growers are harvesting their avocados six months early and at half their usual size because they don't have enough water to let the fruit continue growing. Neighboring farms are doing the same. "They've been tanking in water also. I'm one story out of what's going to be thousands for California, and it's all forms of agriculture that are going to be hurt," Cavaletto said. Federal and state agencies are starting to step in with drought relief, but Cavaletto worries it won't be enough. Brenda Farias with the USDA Farm Service Agency says the they've created the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), which will help farmers with water hauling costs, digging new wells, deepening existing wells, installing pipelines and troughs. At the moment, the program is only for livestock farmers, according to Farias, but she says the agency hopes to have another drought relief program for towards growers by summer. In the meantime, "it rests on my shoulders, trying to make the right decision and so far things haven't gone the way we thought," Cavaletto said, adding, "The government hasn't done anything for water. We've got the ocean out there. Can it be desalinated? Can we reclaim water? All of these things - dams, storage - we're going to have to look at for the future." The deadline to apply for livestock farmers to apply for ECP is March 27.



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