Bureau of Reclamation announces initial water supply allocation for the Central Valley Project

Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 35 percent of their contract supply; Feinstein, Cox, and Costa call upon Reclamation to consider rainfall and snowpack in its initial allocation

The Bureau of Reclamation announced on Wednesday the initial 2019 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project water service contractors, stating that, “California experienced a dry summer and fall in 2018; however, precipitation so far this year 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 overall precipitation is currently approximately 121 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.

“Though we’ve had a great start to 2019, our experience as the operator of this complex and important infrastructure dictates we act conservatively at this time of year,” said Ernest Conant, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region Director. “In particular, we are closely monitoring the current and projected storage at Shasta Lake, which is the largest reservoir in the CVP.”

With a capacity of about 4.5 million acre-feet, Shasta Lake generally represents the majority of the water storage for the CVP. Recent storms have brought storage in the reservoir back up to just above the historic average.

“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,” Conant 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.”

Reclamation provides an initial allocation as described below.

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 are 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 the 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.

Last week, prior to Reclamation’s announcement, Senator Feinstein and Representatives TJ Cox and Jim Costa sent a joint letter to Reclamation calling for an allocation to south-of-Delta water contractors the maximum quality of water practicable given current water supply conditions and projections, and to revise the allocation as conditions change through the remainder to the winter and spring.

The letter cites a provision in the WIIN Act that requires the maximum allocation practical be made “as quickly as possible.” The letter also references an analysis by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority that indicates an initial allocation for south-of-delta Ag water service of 40% is supported.

In a meeting with Ag stakeholders in Fresno this week (prior to Reclamation’s announcement), Representative Cox stated agreed that Reclamation’s initial allocation has a significant impact on growers’ ability to access financing and make critical farming decisions.  He committed to continue working with the Ag and water communities to identify how he can be helpful on water policy issues going forward.

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