Business & Economy

Drought: Temecula vineyards face 10 percent water cut

Temecula’s vineyards will have to use 10 percent less water starting June 1st, under rules set to be approved Thursday by the Rancho California Water District Board.
Temecula’s vineyards will have to use 10 percent less water starting June 1st, under rules set to be approved Thursday by the Rancho California Water District Board.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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Temecula’s grape growers will be required to cut their water use 10 percent starting as early as June 1st, under rules set to be approved Thursday by the Rancho California Water District board.

Ben Drake, president of Drake Enterprises, a Temecula-based vineyard and avocado grove management company and board member of the Rancho California Water District, says he and other growers have already been conserving, so a 10 percent cut shouldn’t be too noticeable.

“It’s not going to effect my yields that much," said Drake. "But if I get into 25 or 30 percent cutbacks, then I’m starting to hurt my yields and hurt my vines for years to come."

Peggy Evans, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, which represents 30 wineries and 60 growers, agreed a 10 percent cutback would have little effect on grape production.

"It's a very low water crop to begin with," said Evans. "We’re very fortunate we’re not avocado growers."  (Avocados use about three and a half times as much water to grow as grapes.)

The Rancho California Water District, which services Temecula, has been among the worst water conservers in California. Under emergency rules issued by the state last week, residents have to cut back on outdoor water use by 36 percent.

Agriculture irrigation is typically exempted from the state's reduction requirements, but since the Rancho California Water District imports water from the Metropolitan Water District, which is imposing its own 15 percent cutback July 1, the Rancho California District's staff recommended the agriculture cuts, according to spokeswoman Meggan Valencia.

Drake said if vineyards don't make the 10 percent cuts, their water rates will become prohibitively expensive.

"If they choose to continue watering in a normal practice, the penalties are going to be very stiff," said Drake. "Because when the [Metropolitan Water District] starts charging more for water, we have to pass that along to the customer."