As most would acknowledge, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of one of the worst droughts in recent memory, with no end in sight. Restrictions on water use, rising prices, reductions in water deliveries and loss of existing wells have become all too common place.
The last thing you’d expect to see these days is a large new orchard being planted. While many existing orchards and crops are being abandoned due to lack of available water, that’s not the case along Gas Point Road.
Take a Sunday drive approximately 11 miles due west and you can see for yourself. Acre upon acre upon acre of newly planted trees, with evidence of more to come.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love orchards as much as the next guy. For sure, they provide consumers with a bounty of fruits and nuts, add significantly to the area’s economic vitality and are just plain nice to look at.
But, orchards demand lots of water. Lots and lots of water. And, sinking multiple Ag wells to satisfy this demand without first assessing their possible negative impact on the aquifer and existing area wells is just plain nuts.
Turns out all you need are land that’s zoned for agriculture and the money to dig a well. With that in hand, you’re free to pump as much water as you’d like.
The Director of the Shasta County Department of Resource Management, responding to a recent query that raised legitimate concerns about the impact of Ag wells dug to support the new orchard, provided this advice,
“Our permit applications do not delve into the specific use of the well other than to distinguish new wells from existing wells that need repairs, deepening, etc., and agricultural wells from domestic, industrial, or public water system wells. We do not regulate pumping volumes or overall usage (at least not yet).”
So, it appears the Ag world gets a pass when it comes to extracting water from the aquifer. Dig the well and pump away. I bet a lot of land developers would love to get that kind of treatment from the county when they propose new home sub-divisions.
The county needs to get off the stick and implement required impact reviews for all new Ag projects that can potentially pump large volumes of water for irrigation. Delay is not an option.
Dare I Say, it only makes sense.