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Published: Sunday, 4/13/2014

California drought spawns well drilling boom


CHOWCHILLA, Calif.  — With California in a third dry year, well drilling is booming across the nation’s most productive agricultural region, and some drilling companies are booked for months or a year.

Farmers expect to get a fraction — if any — of the water they need from vast government-controlled systems of canals and reservoirs interlacing the state. So they are drilling hundreds of feet deep to tap underground water supplies.

The scarcity of irrigation water has created such a demand for well drilling services that Central Valley farmer Bob Smittcamp is taking matters into his own hands.

He’s buying a drilling rig for $1 million to make certain he has enough water this summer for thousands of acres of crops. He calls it an insurance policy, and Smittcamp says he’s not alone.

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