Access flooding information on Disaster Resources.

February 21, 2019

Initial Water Supply Allocation for Central Valley Project Disappoints

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) released its 2019 initial water supply allocation yesterday, announcing that Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors south of the Delta will receive only 35 percent, subject to adjustment as the water year progresses.

According to the Bureau press release, the allocation is based on a conservative estimate of the amount of water that will be available for delivery to CVP water users and reflects current reservoir storages, precipitation and snowpack in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.

The initial allocation is disappointing considering that as of February 15, the statewide average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 141 percent of the historical average, and overall precipitation is currently approximately 121 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.

“Given the current hydrologic conditions, including above average precipitation and snowpack in the northern and central Sierra Nevada Mountains, a 35 percent allocation is further evidence that the 2009 biological opinion controlling temperature management of Shasta Reservoir is placing unreasonable restrictions on CVP operations,” said Westlands Water District in a statement.

Understanding that farmers and ranchers use these allocations to efficiently plan their operations, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Jim Costa and TJ Cox sent a letter last week to Reclamation urging the incorporation of recent precipitation in the initial water allocations to CVP water contractors. The letter states that the practice of announcing an initially low allocation in February and then increasing the allocation as the contract year progresses “makes it nearly impossible for farmers or communities to efficiently plan their operations and increases the likelihood of pumping from severely overdrafted groundwater basins during the late winter and spring.”

“Water is the lifeblood of our Valley. Farmers need early and accurate allocations in order to plan their operations,” said Rep. Costa (D-CA). “The recent rain and snow should be incorporated into the initial water allocations so our farmers, ranchers, and farm communities can continue to use water wisely and maximize the benefits. I am hopeful that the Bureau will listen to our message and allocate water to Central Valley Project water contractors based on the amount of water in California now, rather than on how much was available on February 1st.”

On a related note, the State Water Project yesterday also announced an initial allocation of 35 percent for its contractors, which include Kern County Water Agency and its member districts.

Below is the initial allocation released by the Bureau yesterday.

North-of-Delta Contractors (Including American River and In-Delta Contractors)

  • Agricultural water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 70 percent of their contract supply.
  • Pursuant to Reclamation’s M&I water shortage guidelines, M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta (including American River and In-Delta Contractors) are allocated 95 percent of their historic use.

Eastside Water Service Contractors

  • Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District) will receive 100 percent of their contract total.

South-of-Delta Contractors

  • Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 35 percent of their contract supply.
  • M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated the greater of 75 percent of their historic use or public health and safety needs.

Friant Division Contractors

  • Friant Division contractors’ water supply develops in the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Watershed and is delivered from Millerton Lake through Friant Dam to the Madera Canal and Friant-Kern Canal. The first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1; and Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet. Given the current hydrologic conditions, we have determined that a block of 150,000 acre-feet needs to be evacuated from Millerton Lake in March in order to avoid making flood releases later in the spring. As such the initial Friant Division water supply allocation is being based on “uncontrolled season” conditions. During this uncontrolled season period the Class 1 allocation is 100 percent, and any portions of the uncontrolled season supply not picked up by Class 1 contractors are accordingly made available to contractors with Class 2 designations in their contract. The uncontrolled season may be shortened or extended, however, we will coordinate our operations with the Friant contractors on a weekly basis throughout this period, and will update the Friant Division allocations following the conclusion of uncontrolled season.
  • For the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, Reclamation is currently forecasting a “Normal-Wet” water year type, providing for about 322,000 acre-feet to be used for Restoration Program purposes.