Halting the Sacramento Water Grab

Rep. Denham calls on Congress to halt Sacramento Water Grab by enacting Denham Amendment

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 Recently, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), along with thirteen of his California colleagues, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make sure Rep. Denham’s House-passed amendment to stop Sacramento’s water grab is included in the next spending bill that is signed into law.

“My amendment halts the disastrous Bay-Delta Plan that would see 40 percent of our water flushed out into the ocean,” Rep. Denham said. “Congress must act to protect the Valley.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

 Rep. Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally-owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.

Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years.

Sacramento’s planned water grab would do irreparable damage to Central Valley communities, directly interfering with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water and the Central Valley Project’s ability to deliver water.

The plan would subvert the will of Congress and jeopardize a significant portion of the nation’s agricultural productivity. Following a visit to New Melones at the request of Rep. Denham, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board highlighting serious concerns with the plan and directed his agencies to propose a new plan to maximize water storage and resolve issues with the state, among other directives. 

Rep. Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

State Water Resources Control Board Grab for Salmon Will Impact Federal Water

Feds and State Usually Do Not Work Well Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today continues our report on the recent water rally in Sacramento at the capital building. Farmers and stakeholders attended to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board Proposed Water Grab 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers redirected to increase flows for salmon.

U.S. representative for the 16th district Jim Costa explained how federal and state water projects would be drastically impeded.

There are distinctions between state and federal laws as relates to water. However, there are federal water projects. In this case, New Melones  Dam, a Federal Central Valley Water Project site, will be severely impacted, which could be a problem for the Water Board’s plan,” Costa said.  “With all of the challenges in water, none in the last 20 years have worked together between the Central Valley Water Project and the State Water Project.”

 Adam Gray, 21st district assemblymen representing Merced and Stanislaus counties, explained the fight with the water resources board over the years.

“For the six years I’ve been in the assembly, we have been fighting this fight with the state water board, and despite repeated concerns that we have raised, testimony that I provided and members of my community have provided, the state continues to ignore the concerns and the farmers are not happy,” Gray said. “We are going to raise our voices as loud as they need to be and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get a fair deal on this.”

“The irrigation districts have science-based plans that involve habitat restoration, water, rebuilding a river, and dealing with non-native predators,” he said. It is not going to be easy, and it is going to take sacrifice to make a fair deal. All they want to do is take, take, take, and it is all water with no consideration for those other things.”

Interior Secretary Zinke Agrees: Sacramento Water Grab “Unacceptable”

Zinke Directs Staff to Propose New Plan

News Release

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) continues to yield results for the Valley, with Secretary Zinke issuing an internal memo Friday declaring the state’s proposed water grab an “unacceptable restriction” that reduces the Department of the Interior’s ability to deliver water and directing his agencies to propose a plan within 25 days to maximize water supply, construct new water storage, and resolve issues with the state, among other directives.

“After our tour of local reservoirs, Secretary Zinke recognizes that Sacramento’s water grab would cripple our communities, farms and water storage infrastructure,” Denham said. “Our water, our water rights, and our future depend on stopping this wasteful plan.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

Previously, the Bureau of Reclamation, within the Department of Interior, issued an official comment on the state’s proposed water grab, noting the plan “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”

The agency’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of the Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. The agency recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Recently, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.

Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

See the memo from Secretary Zinke here, or to read the full comment from the Department of the Interior on the state water grab plan, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

Interior Dept: Water Grab at New Melones Devastating for Central Valley

Comments Come After Secretary of the Interior’s Visit

News Release from the Office of Rep. Jeff Denham

Following Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the Department of Interior issued an official comment on Friday regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

The Department of Interior’s comment notes that the proposed water grab “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.” Interior’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. DOI recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

“Sacramento’s radical water grab would cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.  Secretary Zinke saw that when he visited New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs with me last week,” Denham said. “They cannot drain our reservoirs and ignore our concerns.  I will continue fighting to make sure Central Valley voices are heard.”

“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates.” Denham explained. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights.  We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life”

Last week, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower. Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

To read the full comment from the Department of the Interior, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

Justification for Reclamation’s 5 Percent Allocation

Justification for Reclamation’s 5 Percent Allocation

 

Following the stunning announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) on Friday, April 1, 2016, of a 5 percent water allocation for Federal water users south of the Delta, Patrick Cavanaugh, deputy editor with California Ag Today interviewed Louis Moore, deputy public affairs officer with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) Mid-Pacific Region based in Sacramento regarding justification for the low allocation for the Central Valley during this El Niño year.

Cavanaugh: We are all stunned in Central California with that 5 percent water allocation to Central Valley Project water users. With so much hydrology in terms of rain and snow this winter, it seems impossible that farmers and cities could only expect 5 percent!

California Orchard Removal
California Orchard Removal

Moore: Yes, understood. I will try to explain what our logic is behind the 5 percent allocation.

Cavanaugh: Yes, I would like just one reason for the 5 percent. We cannot imagine why so much water is going to waste.

Moore: So basically when we looked at the hydrologic conditions in preparation to make the allocation announcement, we found that regionally, water has fallen differently in the various basins. There was substantially more rain and snow in the mountains in the Oroville and Shasta Dam areas that caused those reservoirs to increase storage quite rapidly. Over at the New Melones Reservoir, which provides water to the south, the storm systems did not materialize and did not produce large sums of runoff; therefore the reservoir storage is low.

Cavanaugh: But the snow that could fill New Melones has not yet melted. And, as you said, there is a lot of water in northern California, and there is a system to get it southward to farms and cities.

Moore: So this is the initial allocation that is out today. We are hopeful that conditions will improve; and if they do so, we can make an adjustment to what the allocation is.

Central Valley Project USBR
Central Valley Project (Source: USBR)

Cavanaugh: You did not mention San Luis Reservoir, a major reservoir jointly run by the state and federal governments that could have had more water pumped into it during the recent high flows, particularly given the flood releases from northern California.

Moore: Water is being pumped into San Luis, and it is for a combination of reasons. Sometimes the natural runoff causes different flows into the systems, but we have to regulate the water that goes through the Delta. San Luis is a shared Federal and State reservoir with legal criteria under which we operate. So we have to be very careful about what waters we can push through the Delta. But we were still providing water to that system.

Cavanaugh: Well, Louis, clearly more water should have pumped into the San Luis Reservoir. On April 2, it was only 52 percent full and, given the flood releases, it should have been more. Californians on farms and cities south of the Delta are frustrated. They assert that far too much water is wastefully flowing out to the ocean—way more than necessary for the protection of species and the prevention of salt-water intrusion. Please explain why so much fresh water, nearly 800,000 acre-feet have flowed out to sea.

Moore: We operate to meet endangered species requirements. We operated to meet water delivery requirements through these various systems. These are federal/state requirements and biological opinion that we are operating to. We are trying to make sure we are following the law, so there are combinations of things where Reclamation works with its partners to determine where and how to get the water where it needs to be.

Cavanaugh: Inflows into the Delta were as high as 300,000 acre-feet of water per day, and only a fraction of that has been moved into San Luis with a capacity of 2 million acre-feet. We understand why San Luis is not filled during drought years; but in an El Niño year like this, it’s confounding how Reclamation could justify an initial 5 percent allocation. It defies any logic, all the water, all the flood releases and the 95 percent on-average snow in the Sierras. Again, how can it possibly be justified?

Moore: What I can say is there is absolute consideration and we understand the impact this has on our customers. One of the reasons we waited until April 1 to make this allocation announcement is because we have been hopeful. We have been looking at the storage, snow and runoff to see if conditions improved enough, so we could actually increase what we thought was going to be a worse allocation.

3-28-16-reservoir_conditionsCavanaugh: Well, it’s laughableonly 5 percent for San Luis, with all the water in the system from the El Niño year! You’re still not answering the question. None of this makes sense to anyone who is a critical thinker. Can you please explain, other than preventing salt-water intrusion and protecting species, why so much more water—over the topwas sent out?

Moore: We are still coming out of the fourth year of dry conditions and that’s not news for folks. The dry conditions that we came through up until the fall of 2015 really impacted our ability to move water downstream into San Luis, which is the same water that can be provided to folks south of the Delta.

We completely understand that, but we are talking about timing of the water supply that we received. Of the additional 4.4 million acre-feet of water that we received over the past several months, 2 million-acre feet occurred in March, which was late [for purposes of allocation analyses]. So we are just getting the sum of this water into our system. And we are still hopeful that [these late hydrology] conditions will improve and we can provide additional water.

Cavanaugh: We know that Fresno received 135 percent of normal rainfall this year; it was wet throughout the area. Five percent was stunning to all of us. We know that farmers will never see 100 percent any longer. And possibly we will never see 80 percent any longer. I mean we could have record flooding throughout the state and farmers may not see a 50 percent allocation—even if the Delta Smelt were proven, unfortunately, to be extinct.

Moore: Yeah, I do hear you. But there is a lot of work that goes into developing water deliveries and a lot of coordination as well. I am not blaming it on the laws, but when we sit down at the table with all the interests for water, it literally becomes a discussion on how to distribute the water and meet all that demand. Now we come to these agreements to meet the legal obligations, to meet the contractual obligations and to protect the environment. So this requires a lot of effort.

Cavanaugh: Louis, I do not get what you are saying. In fact, I disagree with what you are saying. The family farming interest got a zero allocation two years in a row, but the environment still got all the water they wanted. So Reclamation is not sitting down with all the interests for water. The environment gets 100 percent of what they need while everyone else get far less—including zero two years in a row—and now only 5 percent.

Drought Monitor March 29, 2016
Drought Monitor March 29, 2016 (Source: The National Drought Mitigation Center)

Moore: That’s part of the legal requirement that we have talked about. It’s absolutely one of entities at the table that has to be managed.

Cavanaugh: Does the Bureau of Reclamation understand that all this water being used for the environment has not really helped the protected species in the Delta? The species continue to decline despite farmers going without water, fallowing land, and laying off workers, and in spite of devastating communities and severely hurting the economy in the Central Valley.

Moore: You know, I hear you. This is a discussion that I absolutely understand. It’s going to take a lot of folks coming to the table and a lot of discussion to change policy, to change the law and to introduce new ideas on how this works. Those are the things that have to happen

Cavanaugh: Can you help us make this happen?

Moore: You know, this is an ongoing discussion, I assure you. You probably see all the legislative reporting that’s done about water management. It is these discussions that somehow need to culminate into the change that you are mentioning.

Valadao Addresses Western Water Reliability

Valadao, California Republicans, Introduce Legislation to Improve Western Water Reliability

Today, Congressmen David G. Valadao (CA-21) introduced a bill to modernize water policies in California and throughout the entire Western United States with the support of the entire California Republican delegation, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Chairman of the Western Caucus.

 

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 aims to make more water available to families, farmers, and communities in California and bordering Western states. The dedication of vast quantities of water to protect certain species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a significant obstacle hindering water delivery in Central and Southern California. H.R. 2898, will require federal agencies to use current and reliable data when making regulatory decisions, which in turn will provide more water for communities in need.

Additionally, Rep. Valadao’s legislation will provide federal regulators with direction and flexibility to capture water during periods of greater precipitation, which can be used to increase California’s water supplies dramatically. Furthermore, the bill will cut red tape holding back major water storage projects that have been authorized for over a decade, which will aid the entire Western United States during dry years.

Congressman David Valadao (CA-21), the author of the legislation, said, “California’s drought has devastated communities throughout the Central Valley and now the consequences are extending throughout the country. Inaction will result in the collapse of our domestic food supply.” He continued, “Congress cannot make it rain but we can enact policies that expand our water infrastructure, allow for more water conveyance, and utilize legitimate science to ensure a reliable water supply for farmers and families.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) stated, “The tragedy of the current drought is no longer isolated to California’s Central Valley, and its response must include tangible solutions that provide us the opportunity to pursue the California Dream. Today is an important step to helping restore the water our communities desperately need by more fully utilizing the most sophisticated water system in the world to quench the robust economic opportunity California families, farmers, workers, and businesses all need.”

“My western colleagues have worked hard to collaborate on a common sense bill that helps people,” stated Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Communities are suffering and we are putting forward a creative solution to address those needs. I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis in the House and Senate to move this legislation forward.”

“Having personally visited California’s Central Valley on this matter, I can attest to the dire situation facing California with the drought,” said Western Caucus Chairman and Natural Resources Vice-Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large). “This situation demands congressional action to tackle the man-made barriers that are needlessly choking off water supplies crucial not just for California jobs but for the food on American tables. I am pleased to work with my Californian colleagues to ensure we also seize this opportunity to address water issues west wide through water project permit streamlining, enhanced water storage, and protecting state-endowed water rights that are increasingly under attack at the federal level.”

“The water bill we are introducing today will help California families and businesses that are suffering in our ongoing drought,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42). “No legislation will magically end our drought, but by passing this bill, we can take a step in the right direction and work in a collaborative way to enact meaningful solutions. Our bill takes important steps that are the direct result of bipartisan and bicameral conversations, and I look forward to the continued engagement with my House colleagues as well as action from the Senate in the near future. Despite what opponents might say, our legislation does not gut – let alone modify – the Endangered Species Act. Rather, our bill ensures our critical water infrastructure is operated using sound science in order to prevent wasting precious water in ways that do not benefit listed species but come at a high cost to Californians.”

“California’s devastating drought is hurting our ag economy and food supply nationwide,” said Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10). “This bill provides both the short- and long-term solutions that the Central Valley needs, beginning with more storage. It includes two pieces of legislation I’ve introduced to study and eliminate the threat of predator fish and to increase storage in New Melones Reservoir. We can’t keep waiting on the Senate or the President to get engaged and provide Californians with the solutions they need to survive.”

“This bill was designed to address the underlying causes of the drought in a pragmatic and bipartisan manner,” said Congressman Steve Knight (CA-25). “There is no simple answer to this problem. But California needs rational solutions, not more water rations.”

“This balanced legislation improves water access for Californians around the state by using improved science to time water deliveries, preserving water rights and moving forward on new surface storage facilities,”  said Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01). It protects the most fundamental water rights of all, area of origin rights, ensuring that Northern Californians who live where our state’s water originates have access to it. Californians have spoken clearly in support of investment in new surface storage projects, and this measure fulfills the promise to voters by advancing projects that would generate over one million acre-feet of water, enough for eight million Californians. We’ll continue to refine this proposal as it moves through the process, but I am proud to cosponsor a bill that addresses both short- and long-term needs of all Californians and supports continued economic growth.”

“Droughts are nature’s fault; water shortages are our fault,” said Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04). “For a generation, we have failed to build the facilities needed to store water from wet years to have it in dry ones and radical environmental laws have squandered the water we did store. Our water shortage is caused by a shortage of sensible water policy. This bill begins fixing that.”

Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22) explained, “Facing an annual water deficit of 2.5 million acre-feet south of the Delta, the San Joaquin Valley urgently needs whatever relief it can get. And once again, the House of Representatives is taking action to assist our long-suffering communities. As this entirely preventable water crisis continues to ravage Valley farms and devastate our economy, I urge the Senate to finally begin supporting the House’s consistent efforts to roll back the disastrous government regulations that prioritize fish over families.”

Original cosponsors of Congressman Valadao’s legislation include Reps. Ken Calvert (CA-42), Paul Cook (CA-08), Jim Costa (CA-16), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Darrell E. Issa (CA-49), Stephen Knight (CA-25), Dough LaMalfa (CA-01), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Devin Nunes (CA-22), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Edward R. Royce (CA-39), Mimi Walters (CA-45), Mark E. Amodei (NV-02), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Cresent Hardy (NV-04), David P. Joyce (OH-14), Cynthia M. Lummis (WY-AL), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Michael K. Simpson (ID-02), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Scott Tipton (CO-03), and Ryan K. Zinke (MT-AL).

Good News for Oakdale Irrigation District Farmers

Oakdale Irrigation District Farmers:
2015 Water Allotments Raised to 40 Inches

A couple of beneficial spring storms combined with cool weather and strong water conservation led to good news Tuesday morning for farmers in the Oakdale Irrigation District: A small bump in the amount of water they will receive in the fourth year of drought.

OID directors voted 4-0, with Al Bairos absent, to raise this year’s allocation to 40 inches from 36. When the irrigation season began in March, OID told irrigators to expect 30 inches this year – the first time in its 105-year history it has put limits in place.

Directors also declined to rescind a decision they made in April to deliver 10 inches of water to Tier 2 customers.

General Manager Steve Knell said small storms in April and May provided an unexpected bonus: enough water to keep soil moisture high in the valley, plus additional runoff into Sierra reservoirs. He told directors that 2.8 inches of rain fell above Donnells and Beardsley Lakes, which had plenty of room to capture it.

He said the rain comes on top of positive efforts by OID’s 2,900 agricultural customers to use less water. The combination has the district to easily meet its goal of pushing at least 10,000 acre-feet of “saved” water into New Melones Reservoir. OID is on target to conserve about 17,000 acre-feet, Knell said.

“When you ask constituents to step up in this district, they do it,” he said.

The 40 inches OID’s irrigators will receive compares to 36 inches for those in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and is more than double what farmers in the Modesto and Turlock districts will get this summer.

“Forty inches is an abundance of water,” said Brian Lemons, who grows almonds and walnuts.

Still, the implications of the drought were on the minds of OID’s staff and board.

Knell said the district is discussing various 2016 water scenarios with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages New Melones. And Director Frank Clark warned about the financial implications of the drought on the district, which has dug into its reserves to use $17 million to balance its budget the past two years.

“If these dry years continue and you have no income from hydro production and you have no excess water to sell and you keep drawing down from reserves, it looks bleak,” Clark said. “We could be looking at … raising irrigation rates.”

SOUTH SAN JOAQUIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT IN CRITICAL DROUGHT EMERGENCY

SSJID Begins Season Conserving Water for 2016

by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday reporter

As the Stanislaus River watershed enters its fourth year of consecutive drought conditions,  South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID)‘s water supply may not last through the end of the 2016 irrigation season. Therefore, with the season starting on March 15, the SSJID Board of Directors unanimously adopted a drought conservation program on March 10th to reduce the quantity of water used for the purpose of conserving the water supply for the 2015 and 2016 irrigation seasons. The District adopted a strict water allotment of 36” because studies have shown that more than half of its irrigators use less than 36”.  Irrigators must determine how and when to use their allotment.

Along with the 36” limit, allotment transfers will be allowed. The general rule will be that growers can increase or decrease their water supply by transferring all or a part of the 36” allotment between land parcels, with some exceptions. A District application form will be required for transfers, and the deadline for applications will be May 10. Parcels in a single transfer agreement will not need to have the same owners. Only parcels located in the District territory are eligible for the water transfer program. Transfer agreements will be for one year only and will be irrevocable.

The Board has also established a 10-day rotation schedule.

Agricultural water deliveries will be cut off once their allotment is used. SSJID’s online bill payment and consumption history service, available on the SSJID website, will update usage daily; however, the information will be three days old. Season-to-date usage will be shown on each customer’s monthly bill.

Basically, New Melones Reservoir, the source of SSJID’s water supply, is running out of water. The troubling pattern of long, warm dry spells between rain events in the upper watershed is continuing with the result of very little runoff into New Melones Reservoir when it does rain, as the ground and vegetation is so dry that it is soaking up all available moisture. Precipitation in the upper watershed has been 60% of normal since October 1, and has worsened: January was the driest January in history, and no snow fell below 8,500 feet of elevation in February. As the snowpack declines, the New Melones is expected to decline to “dead pool” in September.

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWB) has issued an advisory that Curtailment Orders for Junior Water Rights holders are possible, given the bleak storage levels in all of the reservoirs, including New Melones. There is not enough water in New Melones to meet the Bureau of Reclamation’s regulatory needs and the District’s hard cap of 225,000 acre-feet this year. Any additional inflow or any conservation saved from this year’s total of 225,000 acre-feet, potentially as much as 39,000 acre-feet, will count toward 2016 water needs, so stringent conservation measures in the District will be so important during 2015. Every drop of water saved this year may be needed in 2016.

The District understands this will be a serious hardship for many and will offer irrigator assistance. For more information, call SSJID at (209) 249-4600.

(Sources, South San Joaquin Irrigation District; SSJID caps water deliveries for first time, by John Holland, Fresno Bee; Water Education Foundation)