On January 31, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced a zero percent water allocation for State Water Project (SWP) customers if current conditions persist. According to a DWR press release, the new allocation estimate is a direct consequence of Governor Jerry Brown’s state water emergency declaration which was made on January 17. DWR also indicated the zero percent water allocation was made to protect the health and safety of Californians from more severe water shortages in the months ahead.
This is the first time in SWP’s 54-year history that DWR has announced a zero allocation to all 29 public water agencies that buy from the SWP. The deliveries supply water to 25 million Californians and roughly 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.
Following the announcement, Governor Brown issued a press release on the SWP Allocation saying that the action taken by DWR “is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real. We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.” Governor Brown has also called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent amongst other administrative actions.
Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it will make
$20 million available for agriculture water conservation efforts in California to help combat the effect of the drought. Through his press release, Secretary Tom Vilsack specified that USDA is announcing this additional funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural operators use water more efficiently, stabilize fallowed cropland, and protect their livelihoods for the future. Funds are available statewide to install a number of conservation practices including irrigation efficiency, cover crops, rehabilitation of existing spring developments, protection of grazing lands, and other supporting components.
Funds will be divided between two specific funding pools: cropland and grazing lands. Cropland with a reduced water allocation of at least 85 percent will receive the highest priority. In order to be considered eligible for EQIP, the applicant must have a vested interest in agricultural production and meet other program eligibility requirements. For additional information, eligible landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Service center locations and more information on the drought initiative can be found at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov. Interested landowners and managers have until March 3 to apply for available funds.
California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross also issued a statement of the drought relief made available through USDA saying, “This partnership with the Federal government will provide additional help to California’s farmers and ranchers during this severe drought. We’re working with all of our partners across California to make sure these resources get to those who need them most.”
Congressional Republicans are also acting on the issue. Tomorrow the House will take up H. R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, a bill introduced by Congressman David Valadao, and sponsored by all Republican members of the California delegation.
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