PESHASTIN, Wash. — About 400 pear growers in the Wenatchee Valley will receive one-third less water for the rest of the irrigation season because of drought.
The reduction is the same as 10 years ago when a board member of the Peshastin Irrigation District said it could cause pears to drop one full size, costing growers about $2 million.
The district’s 14-mile canal parallels Wenatchee River to the south and starts at a diversion dam on a river tributary, Peshastin Creek. The canal ends in Cashmere. The reduction includes Tandy Ditch.
The district serves 800 users on 4,000 acres and has no water storage reservoirs. About half the customers are pear growers. This season, as in 2005, the Peshastin district will be supplemented by water from the Icicle Irrigation District, which has about 7,500 acre-feet of water stored in four lakes in the Alpine Wilderness of the Cascade Mountains.
“Peshastin Creek is dropping quickly now,” said Tony Jantzer, manager of both irrigaton districts.
The canal is getting just 31 cubic feet per second of water from Peshastin Creek and needs 50 cfs to operate, Jantzer said. The canal is already getting 15 cfs from the Icicle system, which is all a connecting pipeline will allow, he said.
The one-third reduction in water to Peshastin district users, 4.5 gallons of water per minute down from 6.75, will begin the week of July 20 and continue for the rest of the season, Jantzer said.
“We hope that’s as far as we have to cut back, but we can’t guarantee that,” he said. “It looks like fruit is two weeks early. We want to get growers water while fruit is still sizing up.”
The Icicle district should have enough water to make it through the season without rationing, he said. Anyone with questions may call him at 509-433-4064, he said.
“Hot weather already reduced fruit size somewhat. We don’t need another size reduction, but we won’t know until harvest. Pears and apples don’t look as big as they should this time of year,” said Randy Smith, a Cashmere grower served by the Peshastin district.
Done with cherry harvest, Smith said he will shift some water from cherry trees, stressing them a bit more, to provide more water to pears and apples.
“Hopefully, everybody works together and we will be able to still grow the quality-size fruit we need,” said Dick Smithson, a Peshastin grower and irrigaton district board member.
The Wenatchee Reclamation District, serving 9,000 users and 12,500 acres on 34 miles of canal from the Wenatchee River at Dryden through Wenatchee to Rock Island, hopes to maintain a flow of 165 cfs and doesn’t anticipate reductions, said Rick Smith, superintendent.
“Hot temperatures don’t help the situation any. We hope we can keep flows going for crops and a lot of crops are early. We can hope for cooler days and a little rain,” Smith said.
The state Department of Ecology told 40 junior water right-holders on the Wenatchee River on June 15 that they could have no water this year. Some 80 on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers were cut off June 23 and 260 were cut off on the Methow, Colville and Little Spokane rivers on June 29.
Those junior water rights on the Wenatchee, Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen are small users of mostly secondary rights, meaning they are auxiliary to senior rights they have, said Joye Redfield-Wilder, a DOE spokeswoman in Yakima.
“None is being used for orchards as far as I know. Most every year, they are shut off before the end of the season. It’s just earlier this year,” she said.