Farms and cities that rely on water out of California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta got more good news this week as state and federal water agencies took measures to move more water south.
The moves come between a significant series of stories earlier this winter and as the state faces a rare wet, cold front that many predicted could drop snow as low as 1,500 feet in many areas.
The State Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday it would boost allocations to its State Water Project contractors from 30% up to 35%. That announcement came on the heels of an announcement Tuesday by the Newsom administration that it would loosen pumping restrictions out of the delta through the end of March.
“We’re hopeful that more storms this week are a sign that the wet weather will return, but there remains a chance that 2023 will be a below average water year in the northern Sierra.” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth, in a new release.
And some San Joaquin Valley Farmers got even better news from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
The Bureau announced Wednesday that the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors would get 100% of their allocation from the Central Valley Project.
Thanks to the nine major storms in December and January that dumped rain and snow across the state, the water outlook is greatly improved after a punishing three years of drought, said Ernest Conant, director of the bureau’s California-Great Basin region, in a press briefing.
Because Lake Shasta is projected to exceed four million acre feet of storage, it will likely be a “noncritical” water year. That means the Exchange Contractors are entitled to their full 875,000 acre feet allocation.
The situation is not as rosy for the south of delta ag contractors, including the sprawling Westlands Water District in western Fresno County, which will receive 35% of their contracted amounts. Wildlife refuges will receive a 100% allocation, or 422,000 acre feet.
Friant Water Authority contractors on the east side of the valley will receive 100% of the first 800,000 acre feet available, known as “Class 1” water. After that, Class 2 contractors will get 20%.
Despite the improved situation, Conant emphasized caution.
“We are all too aware of uncertainties that exist and how rapidly conditions in California can change,” said Conant.
Not all river basins were improved and a good spring snowmelt and more precipitation is needed, he added.
“March will tell the story of whether we’re really out of the drought or not,” he said.