HALF MOON BAY (AP) — California’s chronic drought is causing hardships on the coast south of San Francisco for property owners who ordinarily get their water from creeks and wells that have gone dry after four years of scant rainfall.
Residents and farmers within an hour’s drive of Silicon Valley are going without showers, leaving their land fallow and renting property elsewhere for their livestock to graze, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday. Most of the several hundred growers in the area known for its Brussel sprouts, artichokes and pumpkins have cut production and taken big losses, according to the San Mateo County Farm Bureau.
“People don’t think there are rural communities on the San Francisco Peninsula that have run out of water,” San Mateo County Resource Conservation District project coordinator Chelsea Moller told the Chronicle. “I think they really get overlooked.”
Ranchers Doniga and Erik Markegard raise cattle on 1,000 leased acres south of Half Moon Bay, where rainfall this year and last has totaled about one-third of normal. Now that their spring has dried up, they are having water trucked in to fill their tank every three weeks and are conserving by bathing their four children once a week, often in the same tub.
“The cleanest kid goes first,” Doniga Markegard said. “As my grandmother said, ‘Wash your pits and parts, and you’re good to go.’”
A bigger challenge has been making the math work on their nearly 500-head of heritage breed cattle. Since they couldn’t feed or water the herd on the parched ranch, the couple has had to lease more land off-site for the livestock and hope wetter weather arrives before the money to pay for the operation runs out.
“We know the rains are going to come and the grass is going to grow and we are going to get out of this,” Markegard said.
Twice as many well-drilling permits have been issued in the county this year as desperate property owners seek new water sources, the Chronicle said. Bill Laven, a farmer who grows organic produce, let his crops wither in August once the stream behind his house stopped running. He hopes to start planting again now that water was found under his land and he hired contractors to dig two new wells.
“That field would be waist-high in vegetables if we would have had water,” Laven said as he stood before the still-barren soil littered with wasted cabbage leaves. “We basically stopped watering it and watched it all die.”
Aaron Lingemann, who runs a drilling company in Santa Cruz, said that farms on the usually cooler coast face particular challenges when water sources dry up.
“In a lot of places, when you have trouble getting water, you just drill deeper and deeper,” Lingemann said. “But that’s often not an option along the coast. There are a lot of areas that if you drill over 100 or 200 feet it’s salty.”