65% Percent Water Allocation for Westlands with 163 Percent Snow Pack

Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s April Water Allocation Announcement

News Release from Westlands Water District

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors is being increased to 65%. In light of current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, this minor increase is astonishing.

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s general manager, stated: “This announcement begs the question, what has to happen before south-of-Delta farmers served by the Central Valley Project can get a full supply?”

With San Luis Reservoir full and flood flows coming, the 65 % allocation was more than disappointment.

Since October 1, the beginning of the current water year, California has been blessed with abundant precipitation; the 2018-19 water year is now classified as wet. As of April 8, the snow water content in the northern and central Sierra Nevada was 160% and 163% of the long-term average, respectively. Storage in every CVP reservoir used to supply south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors was more than 100% of average for that date. Indeed, these reservoirs were and remain in flood control operations.

Birmingham added, “I know that Reclamation staff understands the consequences of the decisions they make. Reclamation staff understands reduced allocations in a year like this needlessly increases overdraft in already overdrafted groundwater basins. Reclamation staff understands delayed allocation announcements make it nearly impossible for farmers to effectively plan their operations. If Reclamation’s leadership could, they would make a 100% allocation. But Reclamation’s hands are tied by restrictions imposed by biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act. These restrictions have crippled the CVP and have provided no demonstrative protection for listed fish species, all of which have continued to decline despite the draconian effect the biological opinions have had on water supply for people.”

Birmingham concluded, “Notwithstanding the restrictions imposed by the biological opinions, Westlands firmly believes that there is sufficient water to allocate to south-of-Delta agricultural water services contractors 100%. Today’s announcement by Reclamation is disappointing for every south-of Delta farmer served by the CVP, and we hope Reclamation will increase the allocation quickly to enable farmers to quit pumping groundwater.”

After 2019, no one will be able to argue that water supply reductions for south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors are a result of hydrologic conditions. This year demonstrates only too well the crippling consequences of ineffective and unchecked regulations. Because of restrictions imposed on operations of the CVP under the guise of protecting fish, the CVP cannot be operated to satisfy one of the primary purposes for which it was built, supplying water to farmers.

Dense Forest Floors Preventing Absorption

Forests Need Better Management, Despite Extreme Environmentalist Pushback

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Dense forest growth inhibits water saturation.  David Rogers, Madera county supervisor, explained to California Ag Today how less undergrowth will assist in water runoff in the forests.

“We have so much overgrowth in the forest that the snowpack wasn’t even making it to the ground,” he said.

The snow would sit on top of the vegetation and evaporate, thus never making it to the forest floor.

“Removing the vegetation is going to be an important component of restoring the health to the groundwater situation, because 60 percent of California’s water comes from the Sierra Nevadas,” Rogers said.

A 2013 study showed that 30 percent more water can be collected from the forest. This increase in water has been present in areas that have a healthy level of vegetation and not overcrowded. The overcrowded conditions have led to catastrophic fires, and it is important to manage those areas.

The burn areas of those fires are becoming a hazard.

“Not only does the soil runoff fill our reservoirs and mean dredging and all of those things, but what will return won’t be healthy vegetation,” Rogers said.

The vegetation that does return will be chaparral and absorb more water than the trees. The water would most likely be evaporated rather than absorbed.

“What was happening was there was no room for the snow to even hit the ground. It would sit on top like an ice sheet. It would evaporate from the top down and never get to the bottom,” Rogers explained.

Underground systems benefit from the forests; the runoff goes down through the rocks and crevices that in turn fill the rivers, streams, and wells.

“Our groundwater is dependent on that snowmelt going into the ground,” Rogers said. Filtered underground rivers are a result of the water absorbed into the ground; the forest floors need to be managed.” 

Editor’s Note: The image depicted in this article is exactly how a forest should be managed.

Gov. Brown Issues Executive Order to Redouble State Drought Actions

Governor Brown Doubles Down on Drought

 

With California’s driest months ahead, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions and called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.

“The driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse,” said Governor Brown. “This order cuts red tape to help get water to farmers more quickly, ensure communities have safe drinking water, protect vulnerable species and prepare for an extreme fire season. I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible.”

In January, the Governor declared a drought state of emergency. Since then, state water officials say that reservoirs, rainfall totals and the snowpack remain critically low. Current electronic readings show the snowpack’s statewide water content at just 16 percent of average.

In the order, Governor Brown directs the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to expedite approvals of voluntary water transfers to assist farmers. He also directs the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to accelerate monitoring of drought impacts on winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River and its tributaries, and to execute habitat restoration projects that will help fish weather the on-going drought.

To respond to the increased threat of wildfire season, the order streamlines contracting rules for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and CALFIRE for equipment purchases and enables landowners to quickly clear brush and dead, dying or diseased trees that increase fire danger.

The order also calls on Californians and California businesses to take specific actions to avoid wasting water, including limiting lawn watering and car washing; recommends that schools, parks and golf courses limit the use of potable water for irrigation; and asks that hotels and restaurants give customers options to conserve water by only serving water upon request and other measures. The order also prevents homeowner associations from fining residents that limit their lawn watering and take other conservation measures.

The order provides a limited waiver of the California Environmental Quality Act for several actions that will limit harm from the drought.  This waiver will enable these urgently needed actions to take place quickly and will remain in place through the end of 2014.

Continue reading “Gov. Brown Issues Executive Order to Redouble State Drought Actions”