Feds Initial Allocation is only 15 Percent

water allocation

Feds Initial Allocation is only 15 Percent

February 25, 2020

Westlands Water District Statement on 2020 Initial Allocation

 

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced that the initial 2020 allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water service contractors is 15%. Needless to say, Westlands Water District wishes it were higher, and the District is confident that Reclamation would have provided a higher allocation if existing conditions would have allowed it.

It is likely many people will question a 15% initial allocation considering President Donald J. Trump’s recent remarks concerning new biological opinions issued for coordinated operations of the CVP and State Water Project (SWP). Without question, those new biological opinions restore operational flexibility to the CVP and SWP, while at the same time providing more protection for listed species.

Indeed, if those biological opinions had been in effect in 2019, the projects would have been able to conserve more than an additional one-million acre-feet of water. That is enough water to irrigate 300,000 acres of land or serve more than 2 million households in urban areas served by the CVP and SWP. However, 2019 was a wet year, and unless California begins to experience significantly more precipitation, both in the form of rain and snow, 2020 will ultimately be classified as a dry or critical year. Even with the new biological opinions, Reclamation cannot allocate water that its operations forecast indicates will not be available.

Despite the lack of precipitation, it should be noted that the new biological opinions have benefited farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. The 2020 water year is shaping up to be very similar to 2009, a critically dry year. In 2009, south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors received a 10% allocation, and that allocation did not come until April. Comparatively speaking, a 15% allocation in February is good news.

Westlands staff will continue to work with Reclamation and other CVP contractors to analyze hydrologic and environmental conditions in hopes the allocation can be increased as early as practicable.


Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade  
on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation

"Today's announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of a 15 percent initial allocation for water supplies south of the Delta is clearly the result of the dry hydrology California is experiencing. February is shaping up to be possibly the first time in recorded history without any measurable precipitation. That alone is evidence that California may be on the leading edge of another drought.

"These dry conditions are similar to what we saw in 2009. For months farmers were not given an allocation amount and told they may get zero water. In April of that year, well past the time to make effective planting decisions, the allocation was set at 10 percent.

"The new biological opinions implemented last week are already making a difference by allocating 15 percent in February. We're obviously hopeful that allocations will rise, but we're pleased to be off to a better start than we were under the old operating rules.

"Had the new biological opinions been in place last year we believe an additional 1 million acre-feet of water could have been stored for use this year, delivering more water and offering better species protection, based on what we've learned over the past 10 years studying the Delta and its tributaries.

"That kind of operational flexibility is essential for California to remain the nation's leading farm state and to continue to produce more than half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the U.S. as well as vast amounts of dairy, beef and nursery products."

 

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