- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Rice farmers in Northern California are trying to determine exactly how much their yields have suffered because of cold irrigation water, according to an article this week in the Chico Enterprise-Record.
The story, written by Heather Hacking, said UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Cass Mutters has done research to document the temperatures of water in the fields. Rice doesn't produce as well when irrigated with water at lower temperatures, and the longer the water is cold, the more damage is done.
Back in 1968, when Oroville Dam was built, the state water project created the Thermalito Afterbay to warm water destined for irrigation. From the beginning, farmers suspected cold water would still impact yields, but rather than negotiate the specifics then, language was left in the contracts to figure out later. About 10 years ago, because of water project complexities, water was being delivered to farmers at temperatures that made yield decline evident. Last year, the Department of Water Resources agreed to compensate growers for their yield losses.
That has set up the current scenario, in which experts are comparing the yields on farms close to the reservoir with those farther away to determine what yield losses can be attributed to cold irrigation water.