The Friant-Kern Canal. File photo.

published on February 20, 2019 - 2:18 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The Bureau of Reclamation announced a 35-percent initial water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water service contractors.

The allocation is based on a conservative estimate on how much water will be available to be delivered to CVP water users and reflects reservoir storage, precipitation, and snowpack in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.

The announcement was met with some disappointment.

“Today’s announcement of a 35 percent water allocation for Fresno County’s West side federal water contractors once again shows the brokenness of California’s water systems,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO for Fresno County Farm Bureau. “As I have stated many times before, federal water policy has failed everyone…it has failed to protect fish species and it’s failed to provide water to the communities, businesses and farms who need it most. The current biological opinions in which the systems operate under are dysfunctional. They continue to cost this region a reliable water supply with no positive benefit to the species it is meant to protect in the Delta.”

Though California went through a dry summer and fall in 2018, precipitation in 2019 has been well above average.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports that as of February 15, the statewide average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 141 percent of the historical average, and for the northern Central Valley, overall precipitation is currently 121 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.

Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 35 percent of their contract supply, and municipal and industrial water service contractors South-of Delta are allocated 75 percent of their historic use for public health and safety needs.

To avoid flooding releases, 150,000 acre-feet needs to be evacuated from Millerton Lake, so 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 not used by Class 1 contractors will be made available to contractors with Class 2 designations in their contract.

For the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, the Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting a “Normal-Wet” water year type, providing for about 322,000 acre-feet to be used for Restoration Program purposes.

“Reclamation’s initial allocations this year reflect the rain and snow we’ve had to date, balanced with the need to exercise reasonable caution should the remainder of the winter turn dry,” Ernest Conant, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region Director said. “We recognize the importance of providing meaningful allocations early in the year for the planning needs of our contractors and must also ensure we can meet these commitments should conditions turn dry or other contingencies arise.”

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