[KHTS] – The corn stalks and sunflowers aren’t quite as tall.
Sometimes, the dust is more plentiful than the pumpkins.
Lombardi Ranch several years ago. Image courtesy of Robert Schwemmer
“We did lose a lot of money to crop failure,” said Levi Lombardi, 20, who oversees farming at Lombardi Ranch, one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s most famous farms for several generations. “All the money we put into the crops that we had to, we lost.
With California in its third year of drought, many businesses around the state, including the Santa Clarita Valley, are feeling significant impacts.
“I had to give (the corn) up,” Lombardi said about the corn and other produce. “It burned and died out because I was trying to save pumpkins.”
Lombardi Ranch lost about 95 percent of their corn to the drought, Lombardi said. “There’s no telling what I lost with pumpkins.”
The land is far from barren. Lombardi Ranch just held its last weekend of the Halloween Pumpkin Festival for the 2014 season with thousands participating in the festivities and purchasing produce. But the drought has made things much more difficult, Lombardi said.
The state of California and the Santa Clarita Valley hasn’t had three straight years of this level of drought in more than 100 years of recorded history, said Dan Masanda, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.
“In 1976-77, there was a pretty severe drought, but that was before imported water. We were relying on local groundwater,” Masnada said. “From 1987-92, there was a drought, and similar actions were taken back then as are being taken now with restricting water useage.
“If you look at the state as a whole,” Masnada said, “this is the worst drought on record.”
Three types of local businesses were interviewed byKHTS AM-1220 about how the drought is affecting them.
It’s a given that farmers and those who work in the agriculture business are being negatively affected by the drought.
Thousands of people from the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond drive down Bouquet Canyon every fall to get fresh corn, ripe-red tomatoes and any size pumpkin imaginable. But this year is different.
The Bouquet Canyon community’s wells have been thirsty for water for months, causing an outcry from the residents to organizations including the Los Angeles County supervisors office, Public Works and Forest Service to fix the problem.
The creek’s water source, the Bouquet Canyon Reservoir isn’t dried up, yet, but years of silt have built up in the creekbed, causing the road to flood when water is let out of the reservoir.
Silt buildup in Bouquet Creek has made the creek level with the road, creating a flood hazard when it rains or water is released into the creek, according to Supervisor Michael Antonovich during a February meeting.
A couple months later, county officials installed two sets of gates along Bouquet Canyon, which are closed when water is let out of the reservoir to fill up the resident’s wells.
But the water that was let out wasn’t enough for the Lombardi farm.
Most of the corn didn’t make it, Lombardi said. The corn and sunflowers that were planted in the corn maze, wagon trail ride and Scarecrow Alley were all stunted.
“We gave up some stuff that we had planted and tried to save what we could with the stuff that was more valuable than others,” he said.
The Lombardi family did look into working with the nonprofit organization that houses developmentally disabled adults, LARC Foundation, which is also running out of water and has been trucking in water from the Pitchess Detention Center at the edge of Saugus.
LARC Ranch officials plan to start a capital campaign in January to raise funds to run a pipeline about two miles from the detention center, past Lombardi’s Ranch to the LARC location.
“The pipeline would benefit our people and we would not have to worry about running out of water. It could help people all the way down Bouquet Canyon,” said LARC Executive Director Kathy Sturkey in a previous interview. “Others, such as the Gibbon Center, mobile home park, Lombardi’s… could use the pipe if they buy into it and I hope they do, because that would help the price considerably.”
Others who live in the canyon could buy into the installation of the pipeline, Sturkey said.
From July through September, the Lombardi ranch uses such a high volume of water, the rancher questioned the affordability of buying into the pipeline.
But the drought isn’t hurting every business.
While Lombardi Ranch has lost crops, car washes around the Santa Clarita Valley are benefitting from the drought, officials said.
“The drought doesn’t affect us as much as people think,” said Alex Nader, owner of Water Wheel Car Wash. “It’s better to wash your car here. We have our own treatment, the water goes through car wash, through six stage process (to clean it). We see some new faces but we see a lot more people concerned asking if we recycle our water.”
State, county and local officials have recently created restrictions to conserve water. One of the restrictions, backed by Castaic Lake Water Agency officials, states that there is to be no washing of vehicles without a hose fitted with a shut-off nozzle.
Violators of this restriction and others could be subject to fines.
Many car washes in the Santa Clarita Valley recycle their water, reusing it after filtering it and only pumping in water when needed, Nader said.
“Last year, people didn’t ask (if we recycled water) and now everyday I get asked about it,” Nader said. “They’re shocked and didn’t know. Many are impressed that everything is recycled.”
Armen Zargarian, manager of Soapy Suds Car Wash in Valencia, agreed with Nader, saying that the drought has positively impacted the car-washing business.
“Instead of violating rules and people washing their own cars,” Zargarian said, “they’re bringing business to us.”
Robinson Ranch Golf Club
The Santa Clarita golf club, Robinson Ranch in Canyon Country announced Oct. 14, that the club will be adjusting their course hours schedule to conserve water.
“We are alternating course closure(s),” said Robinson Ranch Director Rick Howard adding the course isn’t closing for good. “We have used a vast majority of our allocated water, and are trying to get through the end of the year. We will close a few (sections).”
The golf course pumps in water from one of Santa Clarita Valley’s two aquifers once a year, Howard said. The water is pumped into the course’s well. Robinson Ranch also uses water from the Santa Clarita Water Division.
“We do have limited water allocation and have depleted our water allocation for this year,” Howard said. “There is limited water, so were electing to alternate being closed certain days during the month. We’re trying to be very careful about how we use that allocation.”
Nearly 150 golfers who are members of the club were invited to a meeting earlier in October where course officials talked about water conservation from an environmental standpoint and a neighborly standpoint, Howard said.
“Someone misinterpreted what we said to some of the club members about where we were and what we were planning and took it upon themselves to make things right,” Howard said, alluding to an “inaccurate” CBS article published, reporting the golf course was closing due to the drought. “The groundwater has been declining and the drought conditions are very hard.”
For now, businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley are continuing to work to conserve water, and the Lombardi family’s business continues to thrive as they finish up their 2014 season and begin preparing for their 2015 season.
“You can’t really farm when there’s no water,” Lombardi said. “Our wells are going dry, the whole canyon is going dry. It’s affected us specifically because there is no way to haul in water, and what ground water that has been there is no longer there.”
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