CVP Water Allocations Updated by Reclamation; Some South-of-Delta Contractors Express Dismay

By on March 19, 2019
State Water Project provides small allocation amount

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released updated 2019 allocations for Central Valley Project contractors last Friday and have met with a mix of responses from contracting agencies based on geographic locations within the state. Though the updated allocations are reflective of the February and early March storms that have pummeled the state and lifted all but small slivers of the state from the jaws of drought, the newest allocations are not likely to be the final totals for 2019. As early spring unfolds and additional rain will hopefully fall, Reclamation has indicated that opportunities to deliver additional water may influence future allocations.

“The precipitation we’ve experienced since mid-February has provided a significant boost to the projected water supply for the Central Valley Project this year,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant. “With the improved CVP storage conditions and the latest runoff forecasts, we are pleased to increase the amount of water allocated to many of our water service contractors.”

In descending order, the updated amounts to be released to BOR contractors based on last week’s announcement include:

  • North of the Delta, in-Delta and American River contractors’ allocations, for both agricultural water service and municipal and industrial service contractors, are increased to 100 percent;
  • South-of-Delta allocations for municipal and industrial contractors’ allocations are increased to 80 percent of their historic use; and,
  • South-of-Delta agricultural water service contractors’ allocations are increased to 55 percent of their contract total.

Friant Division’s allocation remains unchanged with Class 1 contractors at 100 percent.

Although South-of-Delta agricultural water contractors saw their allocations increase from 35 to 55 percent with Reclamation’s most recent announcement, South-of-Delta contractor Westlands Water District (WWD) expressed frustration and disappointment with the recent news. WWD indicated on their website:

“For years, we have been told that the farmers served by south-of-Delta Ag service contractors received water allocation reductions due to water shortages. But this year, water is abundant, which is why today’s announcement is so frustrating. A 55 percent allocation, during a year with snowpack and reservoir levels well above average, further illustrates the extent to which California’s water supply system is broken and how important it is that we find long-term solutions to problems plaguing the water deliver(y) system in California.”

WWD, the state’s largest agricultural water district, also noted that two of the state’s reservoirs are significantly above their historical averages for the year and are approaching capacity. Lake Shasta is at 85 percent if its capacity and 111 percent of its historical average. Likewise, San Luis Reservoir is at 99 percent of its capacity and 113 percent of its historical average. Other reservoirs within the state are also posting impressive water holds within their boundaries.

But Reclamation is likely not done with updating allocations for the year. For the time being, the period for uncontrolled season deliveries to Class 2 contractors has been extended to April 10. For now, contractors are being encouraged to take delivery of as much water as possible for beneficial use under their respective contracts to help minimize flood control releases. The first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1; Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet.

Additionally, due to the current hydrologic conditions and storage levels in San Luis Reservoir, Reclamation has declared the temporary availability of Section 215 water from the Delta for south-of-Delta contractors that enter into a “Temporary Water Service Contract for Surplus Water” with Reclamation. Section 215 refers to a section in the Reclamation Reform Act of 1982 that defines temporary water supplies that are unusually large and not storable for project purposes, and how that non-storable water may be used. The availability period for this water delivery will depend on hydrologic conditions and water demands in the coming weeks.

Reclamation posts water supply updates at: https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp-water/index.html. As Water Year 2018-19 continues – and if the state continues with late season rains and atmospheric storms – more water could influence water contractors’ allocations.