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Why farmers say the California 'water grab' will impact everyone

Hundreds of farmers are planning to hold a rally on the steps of the California Capitol on Monday in hopes of protecting their water rights.

Farmers across Northern California say jobs and clean drinking water are at risk right now because of a proposed state "water grab."

"Water is the life blood of our community and without it, nothing else happens," Jake Wenger, a farmer at Wenger Ranch said.

Wenger is a fourth generation farmer. He's one of hundreds of farmers hoping to stop what they're calling a "water grab."

"I don't know how we can continue to farm the way that we do," he said.

The California State Water Resources Control Board is proposing a plan to take water, normally used for both urban and farm uses, from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers, as what they believe will be a new way to save salmon and other native fish.

David Van Klaveren, co-owner of Hollandia Nursery says if this moves forward, that means the state would be taking upwards of 40 percent of their surface water, putting this area into a manmade drought.

"For simple terms, 100,000 gallons of water we get every year, provided Mother Nature gives us that. Automatically, we're only going to have 60,000," Van Klaveren said.

Wenger says it will be a trickle down effect that the entire community will feel, starting with the loss of jobs.

"And it's not just the farm jobs, but in Stanislaus County when 1 in 3 jobs depend on Ag. That means you're losing the people who work in the processing plants. That means you're losing the sales people, the marketing people, the guy who sells you fertilizer," Wenger said.

He says people will be forced to start over-drafting ground water, which could create water quality problems in your drinking water. And it could lower property values, meaning lower property taxes. That's leads to less money going toward public service like police and fire.

"We'll adapt to that, but it may shrink our business if that water disappears. And it will effect how we produce material," Van Klaveren said.

Ahead of state Water Board hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, these farmers are not giving up without a fight. Sources say at least 17 busloads full of farmers and other people in the agriculture industry are heading up to the Capitol on Monday for a rally in hopes of protecting their water rights.

"I don't think the public realizes what's going on. So, I think this rally will help us accomplish that so it will get our voices out there," Van Klaveren said.

The "Stop the Water Grab" rally is set to begin at 12 p.m. on Monday on the North steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento.

ABC10's Lena Howland will be embedding herself with the San Joaquin Farm Bureau as they make their way to the Capitol.

Continue the conversation with Lena on Facebook.