Reclamation halts water deliveries from Central Valley Project

The Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday that it will not be delivering any water for agricultural water services contractors south-of-Delta from the Central Valley Project for the foreseeable future.

“After careful consideration of water management options, we are adjusting the allocation for south-of-Delta agricultural contractors. As always, we will continue to monitor hydrology as the water year progresses and continue to look for opportunities for operational flexibility,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant.

According to the US Drought Monitor, 90% of California is classified as in a moderate drought. For the 2020-21 water year Northern California, where most of the state’s rainfall occurs, has only seen just over 50% of the average precipitation for this time of year and the Sierra Nevada snowpack currently sits at 63% of average.

The bureau’s announcement is coupled with the California Department of Water Resources’ decision to  reduce deliveries from the State Water Project to just 5% of requested supply, down from an initial allocation of 10% last December.

“Initial allocations are based on conservative assumptions regarding hydrology and factors such as reservoir storage,” a department statement said. “Allocations are reviewed monthly and may change based on snowpack and runoff information. They are typically finalized by May.”

The announcements from the state and federal governments don’t bode well for farmers or workers who are already struggling and trying to make decisions on what to plant for the year. A lack of reliable water supply could mean more fallowed land and thousands of farm workers unemployed.

Congressman David Valadao, a Central Valley farmer, expressed his disappointment and frustration.

“I am concerned and disappointed to learn of the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to suspend the already low South-of-Delta 5% allocation,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Central Valley farming community has survived not only devastating drought conditions and burdensome regulations for decades, but also a global pandemic; however, our farms cannot survive without greater water allocations for South-of-Delta agriculture. Halting the allocation entirely is simply irresponsible. It is critical that allocations of California’s water supply reflect the needs of our farms so they may continue to produce the food our nation relies on.”

No official drought declaration has been made by the Governor.

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