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US (CA): Spring strawberry crop could be reduced by groundwater squeeze

The drought has dramatically reduced the amount of surface water available for replenishment. Approaching the fall planting season in the grips of drought, growers of Ventura County's famed strawberries are considering whether to cut back acreage.

The county's Farm Bureau expects to see a reduction on the order of between 1,500 and 2,000 acres due to a number of factors, including the drought's impact on water for irrigation, said CEO John Krist.

Irrigating crops in Ventura County relies almost entirely on well water.

"Because of the drought, we've been pumping the daylights out of those aquifers," Krist said. "And that's caused water levels to fall."

For more than half a century, there has been a system for using surface water to replenish much of the region's groundwater as it is withdrawn. But the drought has dramatically reduced the amount of surface water available to do so.

"Groundwater is at its lowest level in 25 years," said Anthony Emmert, assistant general manager of the United Water Conservation District, which is the entity responsible for replenishing the groundwater in much of the county's agricultural zone.

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