The California Department of Water Resources announced that water allocations for the State Water Project are being reduced from 40% to 35% due to a dry January-March period, coupled with pumping restrictions imposed in December and January to protect Delta smelt and salmon.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that Central Valley Project allocations for south-of-Delta agricultural contractors are being reduced from just 25% down to 20%. Municipal and industrial contractors south of the Delta will see their allocation decreased from 75% to 70% of their historic use.
Local communities face more than $1 billion in lost economic activity due to reduced water supplies for farmers in Westlands Water District ,the district estimates.
“The water supply reductions facing farmers will devastate the local communities. We understand that the most recent cut imposed by Reclamation is a result of record dry conditions experienced in January, February, and March; but this reduction is being imposed after the loss of hundreds-of-thousands of acre-feet of water experienced during a record wet December. Those losses are difficult to comprehend,” said Thomas Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District. “Once again, the needs of our community and the livelihood of our workers are being sacrificed due to questionable decisions by federal officials to protect Delta smelt.”
While rainfall the second half of this water year has been low a wet November and December helped fill a number of key northern California reservoirs to above historical average including Shasta,New Melones and Oroville.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein said “A water allocation of 20 percent for South-of-Delta farmers is a crippling blow to California’s farm community. This is the second very low allocation since 2009, so it should be clear that California needs to store water from the dry years for the wet years. Any water bond put on the ballot must have a strong storage component. Absent that, California will be in deep trouble with respect to water.
“With respect to this 20 percent allocation, all I can say is it’s devastating. In 2010 we were able to work out—thanks to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, water contractors and the state—an additional 150,000 acre feet. I encourage Interior and Reclamation to follow that same formula this year. The water allocation must be increased if California farmers are going to be able to produce.”
Friant Division contractors’ water supply that waters the Valley’s eastside is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River. The first 800,000 acre-feet of water supply is considered Class 1, and the next 1.4 million acre-feet is considered Class 2. Based upon DWR’s February WY 2013 Runoff Forecast, the Friant Division water supply allocation is currently 65 percent of Class 1. There are fears that could be lowered if the mid Sierra gets no more storms.