Napa valley concerned about available water supply

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Napa grape growers are getting concerned about the water supply as the grapes start to ripen, signaling an early harvest.

Next week, the California Water Resources Board may impose new restrictions on water users around the state. If you're a water waster, you could face a $500 fine.

Since January, when Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 20-percent cutback in water use, we've only saved 5 percent.

The new restrictions would prohibit: overwatering your lawn and creating runoff, rinsing sidewalks or driveways, washing your car without a nozzle, or using drinking water to operate a decorative fountain.

But most of California's water goes to agriculture. ABC7 News takes a look at the water situation facing California farmers. Grape vines depend heavily on groundwater supply for irrigation, but some of them are drying up.

The gapes in Napa are starting to ripen, signaling an early harvest, but water restrictions could bring new challenges.

There's a lunchtime crowd at Downtown Joes in Napa, where signs of the drought aren't always on the table, but conservation is.

"We started not putting water out at every table and giving water as they ask for it. And that's about all we can do," restaurant manager Natalie Peatman said.

Bottling is in full swing at V. Sattui Winery in the Napa Valley. The bottles of cabernet will soon be shipped out, but getting this far down the assembly line takes a lot of water.

"Water is the lifeblood of wine. It takes water to grow grapes and takes water to make wine," Winery president Tom Davies said.

Davies says grape vines don't need a lot of water to grow, but at least a gallon of water is needed to produce a single bottle of wine. All that water used to clean and sterilize tanks. Mandatory water restrictions this summer could be devastating to California's most famous export.

"I've heard about avocado growers down in Southern California pulling out their trees. I mean, the same thing could happen here and it would be devastating to our industry if we had to pulling up vines," Davies said.

The future of water is uncertain in the valley, that's why for the first time in 30 years Davies, and other grape growers have purchased crop insurance.

They're drilling for water on Steve Simoneau's property in Napa. He gets his water from ground wells, but the severe drought has caused well water levels to drop so low, it's made his supply unusable.

"I tried filtration systems. I've tried treating the water and nothing will work," Simoneau said.

A machine on his property dug down 250 feet looking for a new aquifer. The search for water isn't cheap. It's costing Simoneau more than $25,000.

"It's necessary, water is part of life, so when this situation comes up, you rearrange your priorities and you find the money. There really isn't an alternative," Simoneau said.

If a new, fresh water supply is found, it could last him another 20 years. But for now, the drilling continues.
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businessdroughtweathercaliforniacalifornia waterwaterwater conservationwinewine industryagriculturejerry brownnapa countyNapa
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