Initial Water Supply Allocations for Central Valley Project Contractors Ranges From 35 to 100 Percent

By on February 21, 2019

In order to help Central Valley Project (CVP) water service contractors, farmers and the general public begin to plan for this year’s planting, irrigation and general water use, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the initial 2019 water supply allocation for CVP water service contractors on Wednesday. The allocation is typically conservative for this point in time based on current reservoir storages, precipitation and snowpack in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada. Although virtually the entire stte has experienced an exceptionally wet and snowy 2018/19 Water Year (WY), officials are quick to point out that the drought-busting rains and snowy could abruptly stop and limit water availability.

“Reclamation’s initial allocations this year reflect the rain and snow we’ve had to date, balanced with the need to exercise reasonable caution should the remainder of the winter turn dry,” said Ernest Conant, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region director. “We recognize the importance of providing meaningful allocations early in the year for the planning needs of our contractors and must also ensure we can meet these commitments should conditions turn dry or other contingencies arise.”

Although the state experienced a dry summer and fall in 2018, precipitation so far this year has been well above average. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports that as of Feb. 15, the statewide average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 141 percent of the historical average. Overall precipitation is currently some 121 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.

Reclamation’s initial CVP allocations for 2019 are:

North-of-Delta Contractors (Including American River and In-Delta Contractors)

  • Agricultural water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 70 percent of their contract supply.
  • Pursuant to Reclamation’s M&I water shortage guidelines, M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta (including American River and In-Delta Contractors) are allocated 95 percent of their historic use.

Eastside Water Service Contractors

  • Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District) will receive 100 percent of their contract total.

South-of-Delta Contractors

  • Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 35 percent of their contract supply.
  • M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated the greater of 75 percent of their historic use or public health and safety needs.

Additionally, Friant Division contractors’ water supply develops in the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Watershed and is delivered from Millerton Lake through Friant Dam to the Madera Canal and Friant-Kern Canal. Class 1 water is considered to be the first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply; Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet. With the current hydrologic conditions, Reclamation has determined that a block of 150,000 acre-feet needs to be evacuated from Millerton Lake in March in order to avoid making flood releases later in the spring. This is considered the “uncontrolled season” and Reclamation is making the initial Friant Division water supply allocation is being based on these “uncontrolled season” conditions: Class 1 allocation is 100 percent, and any portions of the uncontrolled season supply not picked up by Class 1 contractors are accordingly made available to contractors with Class 2 designations in their contract. The uncontrolled season may be shortened or extended, however, Reclamation has indicated that they will coordinate their future operations with the Friant contractors on a weekly basis throughout this period. They will notify all Friant contractors of updated Friant Division allocations following the conclusion of the uncontrolled season.

“Though we’ve had a great start to 2019, our experience as the operator of this complex and important infrastructure dictates we act conservatively at this time of year,” Conant said