Chris Clarke reports for the independent public television station KCET on the water shortage in California’s Central Valley.
The Bureau says it will be keeping an eye on the water supply, and may well increase water allocations if late-season rains help alleviate this fourth year of severe drought.
Think those December rains fixed the state’s drought? Think again. The federal agency that manages the state’s Central Valley Project (CVP) announced Friday that some of its largest agricultural customers may get no water this year, and the project’s urban and industrial customers will endure another year of severe cuts in their own water supplies.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the massive water project, is projecting that it will be able to provide its “municipal and industrial” customers with a quarter of their historic annual use this year, or whatever amount those customers need to ensure public health and safety if that 25 percent isn’t enough.
That’s a harsh enough ration, but the Central Valley Project’s farm customers got even worse news: for the second year in a row, CVP agricultural water service contractors will get zero percent of the amount to which they’re legally entitled in a wet year.
Despite the relatively wet December across much of the state, which led some to breathe a sigh of relief that California’s long drought was ebbing, January 2015 was the driest on record in Northern California, which is the source of all of the CVP’s water. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at one-fifth its usual level, and the CVP’s six main reservoirs now hold less than half the water they average this time of year.
We are bracing for a potential fourth year of severe drought, and this low initial allocation is yet another indicator of the dire situation,” said David Murillo, Mid-Pacific Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation. “Reclamation and the Department of the Interior will continue to work with the State of California and our water users to do everything possible to increase water deliveries from the project as we move yet another difficult year. Our economy and our environment depend on it.”
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See also the Central Valley Project Press Release: Reclamation Announces Initial Water Supply Allocation for Central Valley Project (February 27, 2015).