Agriculture

Valley communities face sharp 35% cut in water supplies from Feds

Two months after suspending water deliveries to farmers in the Central Valley, Federal water managers announced Wednesday that their water allocation would be conclusively reduced to zero percent of their contracted amount.

They also cut water allocations for municipal and industrial water contractors north and south-of-the-Delta by 35 percent – from 55 to 25 percent – of the contractor’s historic use.

Local municipalities affected by the cut include Fresno and Tulare counties, along with the cities of Tracy, Coalinga, and Avenal.

In February, the Bureau of Reclamation initially set water allocations for agricultural water contractors both north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at 5 percent of their contracted amount.

By the end of March, the agency announced that water deliveries via the Central Valley Project to the westside of the San Joaquin Valley – including the sizable Westlands Water District – would be suspended, citing flatlining precipitation in the winter.

At the same time Federal water managers suspended water deliveries westside farmers, California water managers reduced water allocations from the State Water Project to south-of-Delta farmers to zero percent.

Earlier this month, Reclamation delivered similar suspension news to north-of-Delta farmers.

Wednesday, Federal water managers with Reclamation cemented their position from a mere suspension of deliveries into a revision of water allocation.

“The 2021 water year for the Sacramento-San Joaquin RiverBasin is currently the direst since 1977,” the agency said in a statement. “Between the April 1 and May 1 forecasts, there was a 685,000 acre-feet reduction in the projected natural flow to the Sacramento, Feather, Yuba, and American rivers.”

The cut to municipal water supplies greatly shakes up service for a bevy of San Joaquin Valley communities.

However, it does not affect communities that are considered contractors of the Friant division of the Central Vally Project, such as the City of Fresno.

Those municipalities are currently governed by a 20 percent water allocation, set in February.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.