Feds provide “meager increase” in water allocation for Valley farmers

Wednesday’s announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation was a disappointing one for the Central Valley.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that south-of-Delta water contractors are having their water allocation increase from 35 percent to 40 percent of their contracted amount. 

That five percent increase was “incredibly disappointingly low” for Westlands Water District. 


The big picture: South-of-Delta contractors were initially allocated 15 percent of their contracted total in February, but that number was boosted to 35 percent in March. 

  • Farmers were hopeful that California’s above average snowpack would result in a greater boost, considering the state has had a good start to the year with precipitation. 

Driving the news: Westlands Water District called the increased allocation “incredibly disappointingly low” in a statement, and noted some comparisons to previous years that they thought would signal a better allocation for 2024. 

  • In 2018 south-of-Delta contractors had a 50 percent allocation. But Westlands noted that this year the Delta has substantially more outflow, California has a better snowpack and there is generally equivalent storage in upstream reservoirs. 
  • Westlands thinks the federal government is withholding the allocation below 50 percent because of uncertainty in hydrology and corresponding conservatism in water management, and because of anticipated operational constraints to protect fisheries in the Delta. 
  • The low allocation, Westlands said, will not result in a measurable effect to fish populations in the Delta despite the significant cost to the water supply. 

What they’re saying: Westlands General Manager Allison Febbo called the allocation a “meager increase” that continues to present unnecessary and unjustified hardships for the hard-working people of the district. 

  • “Water from the Central Valley Project is the lifeblood of our farms and communities that rely on the crops they grow,” Febbo said. “If we can’t expect transparency in the process and a robust water allocation reflective of the hydrology during years when our reservoirs are full, then what can we expect for the future of our region?” 
  • California-Great Basin Regional Director Karl Stock said the Bureau of Reclamation realizes that its contractors were hoping to see a greater allocation. 
  • “However, continued uncertainty in long-term hydrology and regulatory constraints necessitate Reclamation’s approach with available water supplies,” Stock said. 
  • Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) called the increase insufficient for the Valley’s farmers. 
  • “Recent storms, current reservoir capacity, and a healthy snowpack should give Reclamation the flexibility to significantly increase allocations and get CVP users the water they contract and pay for,” Valadao said. “I will continue urging transparency in Reclamation’s decision-making and a significant increase in water allocations for South-of-Delta agriculture.” 
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