State reverses course, cuts water allocation | News

The headline in the State Department of Water Resources, DWR, press release said it all: “Historically Dry Conditions Affect Proposed State Water Project Deliveries.”

With this, the ministry expressed that it would cut the originally planned water deliveries.

Based on a historically dry January and February, the State Water Project announced that it would cut its originally planned allocation from 15 percent of the requested amount to 5 percent. The department also said the cut was necessary because no significant storms were forecast for March, leaving water supplies to worry about.

The ministry said it will continue to meet any unmet critical health and safety needs of the 29 water agencies that have contracted to provide supplies for the state water project.

“We are witnessing climate change in real time, with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions. That means adapting quickly based on the data and the science,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “While we had hoped for more rain and snow, since October DWR has been preparing for a third straight year of drought. We continue a series of actions designed to balance the needs of endangered species, water conservation and water security for millions of Californians.”

In a letter to State Water Contractors earlier this month, Nemeth stressed the need for “proactive conservation measures to prepare now for prolonged extreme drought.”

The ministry will make its next assessment of the water that can be allocated after the April 1 snow survey. A final allocation should be announced in May or June.

The lack of significant rainfall in January and February has resulted in declining reservoirs and reduced snow cover, the department said. To date, national reservoir levels are about 70 percent of the average. Statewide Sierra snowpack fell to 55 percent of the average on March 18, with most of that snow coming from heavy snowstorms in December.

As the state prepares for a third dry year, the state will conserve as much storage as possible in Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, the department said. “Water discharge from Lake Oroville is being prioritized to maintain the delta’s water quality, protect endangered species, and meet the needs of senior water advocates,” the department said.

On Friday, DWR also announced that the department, along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, will file a revised request for a temporary change in urgency for April 1 through June 30 operations.

Also today, DWR, along with the Central Valley Project, will submit a revised application for a Temporary Change of Urgency Petition (TUCP) for April 1 through June 30 operations. The petition will seek flexibility for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to release less water into the delta by June to conserve the limited stored water in the Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs.

The state and the Central Valley Project previously submitted a TUCP application for earlier this year. After the December storms, they withdrew the application. “This new application is necessitated by dramatically changing conditions and covers changed dates and operational requests,” stated DWR.

In addition, DWR plans to refill the notch in the emergency drought salinity barrier in the delta. Crews created a notch in the barrier in January to allow fish passage and winter boat traffic. Work to fill the notch will begin on April 1st and will be completed by April 15th.

The barrier reduces saltwater intrusion into the delta and allows for reduced flows from upstream reservoirs to conserve water supplies,” explained DWR. The lockdown is expected to remain in place until November 30th.

Interested parties can call up current water conditions in real time at California water clock, a new website launched by DWR. This website provides information on local hydrological conditions, forecasts and water conditions for a specific address or local watershed. The website presents data from a variety of sources and allows the public to get a quick snapshot of local and statewide water conditions.

The State Water Project is an elaborate network of reservoirs and canals that delivers water throughout California; Its largest customer is the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California, which serves 19 million city dwellers.

The federal government’s Central Valley Project, which runs parallel to the state’s water system, has announced an initial allocation of 0 percent for most of its member agencies. In this Friant Division area served by the Friant-Kern canal, Class 1 users received a 15 percent allocation.

But the CVP often follows the actions of the state and it too could cut its original allocation.

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