Reclamation sets Valley water supplies at 15 percent

Central Valley farmers are facing a year of low water projections after receiving their full contracts last year.

After receiving 100 percent of their contracted water supplies last year, Central Valley water contractors will only receive 15 percent of their contract total. 

The Bureau of Reclamation announced the water supply allocations for Central Valley Project contractors on Wednesday, leading Valley contractors to hope for more storms as winter leads into spring. 


The big picture: While agriculture districts south-of-Delta are receiving 15 percent of their contracts, municipal and irrigation water services will be allocated 65 percent of their historical use, or public health and safety needs – whichever is greater. 

  • San Joaquin River Settlement Contractors and San Joaquin Exchange Contractors will receive 100 percent of their supply. 
  • Central Valley Project contractors south-of-Delta have also been approved to reschedule around 184,000 acre-feet of unused allocated water from 2023 for 2024. 
  • For Friant Division contractors – whose water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir, the first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1, while Class 2 is considered the next amount up to 1.4 million acre-feet. The Friant Division water supply allocation is 60 percent of Class 1 and zero percent of Class 2. 
  • The Bureau of Reclamation is also reserving around 83,000 acre-feet currently in San Luis Reservoir to continue to a drought reserve pool and is not considered available for water supply allocations. 

What they’re saying: Westlands Water District said in a statement that it understands the prudence of the moderate initial allocation and hopes late winter and early spring storms can assist in increasing the allocation later in the year. 

  • “We recognize mother nature is unpredictable and forecasting water allocation is hard work and challenging,” said Westlands General Manager Allison Febbo. “We appreciate the staff at Reclamation for their efforts to deliver water – a critical resource – to our family farmers so they can grow the produce that nourishes not just our region, but beyond. To be resilient to changes in climate and to be prepared for future drought conditions, the district has been focused on implementing solutions like groundwater recharge to replenish our aquifers and working with our farmers to explore alternative use for fallowed land like solar.” 
  • Federico Barajas, the Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said this low initial allocation is particularly challenging for farmers who are relying on these projections for planning crops to grow and acquiring the necessary financing. 
  • “The last decade – in which Authority members received water allocations below 20% six times, including four years with no allocation, and 75% or above three times – continues to reinforce that California’s water system is no longer able to provide the reliability necessary to support the demands placed on it,” Barajas said. “Rainfall and snowpack patterns are changing and our water management strategies must be responsive to this new reality.” 
  • Barajas continued, “To that end, in recognition of recent efforts to develop a south-of-Delta drought resilience plan, the Authority and participating members have been working with Reclamation to reserve some of the water currently in San Luis Reservoir to contribute to a drought reserve pool for use at a later time.”
  • Friant Water Authority chief Jason Phillips acknowledged that Reclamation may not be done with disbursing water resources out of Friant Dam.
  • “After a slow start to the water year, several large storms have begun to pack the Northern and Central Sierra Mountain ranges with much needed precipitation and snowpack. And thankfully so”, Phillips said in a statement. “On behalf of FWA and the entire Friant Division of the CVP, I’d like to thank the US Bureau of Reclamation for the early initial allocation announcement of 60% for Class 1 Contractors. Under the latest inflow forecasts we anticipate the need for an increased allocation soon even under dry conditions to avoid spilling of Millerton supplies this spring. We look forward to frequent updates to the allocation and continued coordination from
  • Reclamation as this water year progresses.”
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