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.”
The Adoption of the New Biological Opinions
A Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Exec. Director Mike Wade
For the first time in more than a decade, the federal rules known as Biological Opinions are being updated. These rules exist to protect threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of farms, businesses and people.
The new Biological Opinions, based on more than 10 years of scientific study, will allow California to manage water in real-time using the latest science rather than relying on an arbitrary calendar approach that takes years to recognize updated research.
The decade-old rules are based on outdated science and have failed to help Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other threatened species. And to keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.
Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million-acre feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands.
The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians. We applaud the Trump Administration as well as California leadership including Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes for their part in making this a reality.
To be clear, this is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle that we hope includes new Voluntary Agreements on water. We support the Newsom Administration’s efforts to make water policy work better for all Californians.
The one-page information piece is intended for consumers and breaks down the drought into easy-to-understand sections.
Information includes an updated number of acres expected to be idled this year (800,000 acres), how lost farm production will impact the economy, what consumers can expect to see in stores in the way of food-related price increases and also what farmers have been doing over the years to improve water use efficiency.
The California Farm Water Coalition was formed in 1989 in the midst of a six-year drought. CFWC was formed to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.