Carolina grower-shippers are optimistic about having abundant water supplies for 2009 crops.

Plentiful rains this winter and early spring couldn’t have come soon enough, said Doug Patterson, vice president of Patterson Farms, China Grove, N.C.

“We needed our water tables and reservoirs replenished,” he said. “This is the first spring in five years we’ve been at full water capacity.”

By the end of April, following a wet winter and early spring, Leonard Small Jr., owner of Virginia Fork Produce Co. Inc., Edenton, N.C., was happy to see the sun.

“This is the first warm and beautiful week we’ve had,” he said.

It’s not only abundant rains that have put the Tar Heel State in good shape waterwise, Small said.

“We’re all on center pivot head irrigation, which conserves better,” he said. “Watermelons don’t need a lot. Just a shot every now and then.”

Careful management of its water use has benefited Wilson, N.C.-based Fresh-Pick, said James Sharp, president.

“Most of ours is drip irrigation,” he said. “We don’t waste any water. It’s all utilized.”

Taking a wide view, 2009 water supplies are sufficient, said Curtis Smith, president of TC Smith Produce Farm Inc., Seven Springs, N.C.

“Right now, we have a good amount of water,” Smith said April 30. “We’re caught back up on our water table.”

At the end of April, however, during the heart of his company’s strawberry harvest, a rain or two would have been welcome, Smith said.

“We had a lot of wind, which dehydrated a lot of stuff around here,” he said. “We could use some rains.”