Westlands Water District Has Robust Water Transfer Programs for Growers
Westlands Water District is the largest agricultural water district in the United States. Westlands has Federal contracts to provide water to 700 family-owned farms that average 875 acres in size. Many of those families produce almonds and pistachios.
Tom Birmingham is the general manager of the Westlands Water DFistrict. He speaks about those water transfers to help the growers on these low water allocation year, such as this season’s 20 percent.
“Westlands has a very robust water transfer program,” said Birmingham. “The district is in the market on behalf of its farmers, seeking to purchase water supply from other agencies. And this year we estimate that we will bring in approximately 130,000 acre feet of water for the farmers and predominantly because of the cost of that transferred water, that water is used to produce higher value, permanent crops,” he said.
Many of the farmers in Westlands have ground water to use, however Birmingham said farmers who produce almonds, try not to use that. “Because of the relatively high concentrations of boron in groundwater underlying Westlands. And so if they have to use ground water, they will blend that ground water with surface water to protect the yields of their origins.
Birmingham said that almond and pistachio growers in Westland will limit their acreage. Because they ultimately know that water may not be available.