The California Aqueduct, part of the State Water Project, is seen in this aerial photo by the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

published on March 18, 2022 - 12:01 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A third year of drought conditions is prompting the California Department of Water Resources to claw back some of the water it initially allocated for delivery this year.

The State Water Project allocation has been reduced to 5% of requested supplies Friday, less than the 15% announced in January after December’s wet winter storms.

It was in December when the Department of Water Resources (DWR) made an initial allocation of 0% of requested water beyond what was needed for necessities such as drinking and bathing. It was the first time the state has ever issued an initial water allocation of nothing, reported the Association Press.

Local agencies served by the State Water Project include Kings County, Dudley Ridge Water District in southern Kings County and Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, according to the DWR website.

A historically dry January and February — combined with no significant storms forecast for March — led to the reduction to conserve water.

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

DWR will make its next assessment of the State Water Project allocation following the next snow survey on April 1. A final allocation for the water year is typically announced in May or June.

The lack of significant precipitation in January and February has resulted in falling reservoir levels and reduced snowpack. As of today, statewide reservoir levels are about 70% of average. The statewide Sierra snowpack has fallen to 55% of average for this date, most of that snow coming from heavy snowstorms in December.

Also today, DWR, along with its federal partners at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, will submit a revised application for a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) for operations from April 1 to June 30. The petition will seek flexibility for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to release less water into the Delta through June 2022 to conserve limited stored water in Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs.

DWR and Reclamation had previously submitted a TUCP application for earlier in the year. However, December storms made that application unnecessary, and it was withdrawn. This new application is necessary due to dramatically changing conditions and covers modified dates and operational requests.  

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