Yesterday, the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced that water allocations to south-of-Delta Central Valley Project farmers increased from 55 percent to 65 percent of their total contractual agreements.
Just so we all understand the current state-of-play in water:
First, the statewide average snowpack is 162 percent of average for this time of year.
Second, major dams have been in flood control mode and are now awaiting a huge snowmelt.
Third, Shasta Dam – the cornerstone dam of the CVP that supplies farmers who now will receive 65 percent of their contracted amount – is 106 percent of average and just under 90 percent full for this time of year. As most would say: it’s full!
In 2017, south-of-Delta CVP agricultural contractors received a 100 percent allocation in mid-April.
At that time, statewide average snowpack was 164% of average, or a near-mirror image of today.
The same numbers, two years apart, lead to 35 percent less water allocated.
It’s hard to pin the blame on a lack of expectations in forecasting. The California Department of Water Resources water supply forecast summary for April-July shows every single river listed well over 100% of average.
In fact, the lowest forecast on the list of rivers is 130 percent of average, with the highest being 180 percent.
Simply put: we have snow and we have water.
In the next 24 hours, over 200,000 acre-feet of water will flow through the Delta. We will capture 2.4 percent of this water.
That means 97.6 percent of this water is headed to the ocean. This fresh water will mix with salt water.
Outside of agriculture, municipal and industrial users have not received their full allotment from Reclamation.
Lest we forget, this area includes some of the most disadvantaged communities which – according to state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom – have terrible water quality.
I have a feeling agriculture and our disadvantaged communities could have a beneficial use for at least some of that 97.6 percent headed to the ocean today.
Since 1990, south-of-Delta CVP agriculture contractors have seen a 100 percent allocation four times.
The years were 2017, 2006, 1998 and 1995.
In 16 of those 20 years, their allocations have been at 50 percent or less with more than half of those years occurring after the current biological opinions were established.
The argument for common sense water management and storage continues to make itself.