Clarence Freitas, 56, who owns 70 acres of almonds and grapes, watched with relief as a team from Arthur & Orum drilled into his baked soil, boring through 80ft a day until reaching 440ft and an expensive, urgent replacement for his old 160ft-deep well.
“My heart hurts, my bank account hurts,” he said, as muddy water gushed from pipes. Neighbours advised him to go deeper, in anticipation of the water table plunging further, but Freitas said the men in his family tended to die young – “I hope it’ll last 20 years and by then I’ll be gone.” He was not optimistic about the valley. “This could go back to being desert, the way it was before irrigation.”
Many farmers are descendants of migrants who fled here to escape the 1930s dust bowl, a trauma immortalised in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. It could happen again, except this time in California’s man-made Eden, said Matt Hammond, 51, Kim’s husband, on his way to a drilling site.
“They’ll keep growing crops around here until they pump the valley dry. If something doesn’t change, everything will dry up and die. It won’t be farmable anymore.”
The community had hoped for a “miracle March” of bountiful rain but that seems unlikely, he said, scanning azure skies. “Nobody’s fault but God’s.”
California farmers resign themselves to drought: 'Nobody's fault but God's' | US news | The Guardian