Water contractors disappointed, frustrated by small increases in allocations

April 26, 2024
SJV Water
by SJV Water
State reservoirs are above average as of April 26, 2024. SOURCE: California Data Exchange Center
SJV Water
SJV Water

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Increased water allocations from systems that move water from northern to southern California were met with disappointment and frustration from contractors.

Both the Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation increased allocations this week to 40% of contracted amounts, going up 10% and 5%, respectively.

With nearly all the state’s reservoirs filled to above average levels, the increases were seen as stingy, at best.

“This allocation increase is incredibly disappointing and should be much higher,” said Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors President Ted Page in a press release.

The problem is fish, according to a DWR press release.

“The ability to move water supply south through the system will continue to be impacted by the presence of threatened and endangered fish species near the State Water Project pumping facility in the south (Sacramento-San Joaquin) Delta,” according to the release.

The presence of the fish “triggered state and federal regulations” that put an automatic crimp on pumping, the release states.

Page objected to that sort of snap regulatory reaction saying the restrictions are “based on outdated fish population estimating tools.”

“There is no data to show that the actions imposed by the regulatory agencies have helped fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but the actions have severely limited California’s available water,” Page is quoted in the release.

San Joaquin Valley reservoirs are above average. SOURCE: California Data Exchange Center

The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water Project system, contracting for nearly 1 million acre feet a year. Page noted the agency’s member water districts still have to pay the state for their full shares though they are only getting 40%.

Westlands General Manager Alison Febbo echoed Page’s frustration. Though Westlands contracts for water from the federal system, it all comes though the delta and is subject to the same restrictions.

“This current experience raises concerns for how the regulatory agencies will approach the promised improvements to transparency, science-based decisions, and adaptive management,” under pending agreements for farming agencies to dedicate more water to rivers for fish populations.

She noted that in 2018 Westlands received a 50% allocation though snowpack and runoff was less that year than it is now.

“Westlands remains vigilant in the effort to improve collaborative water supply decision-making and the transparency and accountability for those decisions,” Febbo stated in a release.

DWR’s release did state that when fish move away from the pumps later this summer it anticipates increasing deliveries “significantly.”

Still,  this week’s stunted allocations were especially frustrating as regions throughout the San Joaquin Valley are gearing up for the growing season and eager to sock away as much water underground as possible under the looming Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Page said.

“What California really needs is a comprehensive solution to the water crisis — one that relies on good science and balances the water needs of people and the environment,” Page said.

SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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