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DroughtFederal SystemFriant-Kern Canal

No cut to Friant water users – so far

 •  by Lois Henry
Chris White, Executive Director of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractor Water Authority, gestures during a talk about San Joaquin River restoration efforts in this 2018 photo. CREDIT: Lois Henry

Though questions remain about whether San Joaquin Valley towns and farms that rely on water from Millerton Lake could be cut to zero, as they were in the last drought, water managers are moving ahead as if that won’t happen.

In 2014 and 2015, the federal Bureau of Reclamation wasn’t able to get enough water out of Shasta Lake through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to satisfy obligations is has to agricultural water districts known as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. Instead, the Bureau pulled water from Millerton Lake for the Exchange Contractors and cut other users from Fresno all the way to Arvin to zero in those years.

History appeared on the verge of repeating in the 2021 drought when the State Water Resources Control Board alerted the Bureau that it needed to keep more water in Shasta for winter-run Chinook salmon. The fish need cool temperatures to survive the summer and be able to spawn. The Water Board demanded the Bureau cut back its delta exports in order to keep 1.25 million acre feet in Shasta through summer.

That raised the specter that Exchange Contractors could call on Millerton water again.

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Lois Henry
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