Water interests respond to the 5% initial State Water Project allocation

The State Water Contractors, ACWA, the State Water Contractors, the California Farm Water Coalition, and the Southern California Water Committee have issued the following statements regarding the initial 5% State Water Project Allocation:

From the State Water Contractors:

On the heels of a very dry year, the California Department of Water Resources announced today that California’s water agencies, those that get water from the State Water Project (SWP), should initially expect only five percent of SWP water supplies. Only one other time in the history of the SWP has the initial allocation been such a small percentage.

This announcement comes as California faces two major water supply challenges—persistent dry conditions and an antiquated water infrastructure system.  Environmental regulations have also made water supply management a growing challenge. Water agencies are often required to halt or dramatically slow down deliveries to comply with these regulations.  For example, this past winter, storms came through that would have replenished South of Delta reservoirs, but because of environmental restrictions, the state was required to allow 800,000 acre feet of freshwater to flow out to the ocean.

We lost an opportunity earlier this year to capture a significant amount of water due to our outdated water system,” said Terry Erlewine, General Manager of the State Water Contractors. “If we had a more modern water delivery system in place, like that proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, we would have more water in storage and today’s low allocation announcement wouldn’t be so dire.”

Had the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) been in place, water agencies would have had the flexibility to capture more water during wet times. That water would be saved in storage facilities and could be used during dry periods like the current one. Instead, many of California’s reservoirs remain well below their historical average.

The BDCP is being crafted to ensure that Californians have a safe, adequate water supply, while also protecting the Delta environment. The plan includes modernizing the state’s primary water delivery system by routing water underground through twin tunnels to the existing pumping facilities.

Currently, the state’s water infrastructure consists of 100-year old dirt levees that usher water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta); these levees are susceptible to failure in the event of a major earthquake or natural disaster. Such an event could cause salt water to rush into the Delta, contaminating the drinking water for two-thirds of California.

A new delivery system, like the twin tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, would give our public water agencies the ability to better prepare for dry spells and natural disasters, both of which could significantly impact our statewide water supply. We need a system that utilizes today’s technology to protect water supplies for decades to come,” added Erlewine.

These challenges only exacerbate California’s record dry spell. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the first ten months of this year have been the driest such period since 1895. The National Drought Monitor analysis has categorized 84 percent of the state as being in severe drought, with parts of certain counties even worse off.

The SWP provides water to 25 million people, farms and businesses, and for some water agencies, SWP water makes up a significant part of their water supply portfolio.  How each water agency manages the low allocation will depend on individual circumstances but, in many cases, the low allocation will result in heavy dependence on storage and drawing from groundwater basins.

The allocation is just the first projection for 2014. The state will continue to make projections as weather conditions change.

For more information on current water conditions, please visit www.water.ca.gov. For more information about the BDCP, please visit www.baydeltaconservationplan.com.  Visit the State Water Contractors online at www.swc.org.

From the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA):

Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), issued the following statement on the initial water supply allocation announced today by the California Department of Water Resources. The department has advised customers of the State Water Project that it expects to deliver just 5% of requested supplies in 2014, though the estimate could increase in the coming weeks if there are additional storms.

“This extremely low initial allocation estimate for State Water Project contractors is another reminder that our water supply is far from guaranteed. Our rainfall patterns are unpredictable at best, and the current system can’t reliably meet our needs.

“ACWA and its members are working to advance a comprehensive plan and immediate actions to improve water supply reliability, including investments in additional water storage, expansion of strategies such as water recycling and water use efficiency, more effective use of water transfers and improvements in the way water is conveyed through the Delta.

“Since 2009, ACWA has partnered with the Department of Water Resources to educate the public on water conservation and to coordinate drought assistance when needed. If 2014 proves to be another dry, our members will continue to do all they can to adjust to conditions and help their customers reduce their daily water use.

“ACWA and its members will continue to push for solutions that work for the entire state.”

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 440 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.

From the California Farm Water Coalition:

The following is a statement by Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, on the State Water Project 5 percent allocation announcement:

Today’s announcement by the Department of Water Resources should be a wake-up call to all Californians that our water supply system is broken. More than 750,000 acres of farmland in the State Water Project service area will once again face severe water shortages.

“Land that could have been planted to grow fresh produce will lie fallow. Consumers who shop for California farm products may instead find fewer choices at the grocery store, higher prices, or produce grown outside of the country. This announcement comes at the same time a report released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation reaffirmed an almost 100 percent pesticide residue compliance record for California-grown produce. California farm products are safe.

“This cannot continue. We must find a way to update our aging water infrastructure and improve water supply reliability to farms, homes and businesses. In the short term federal fishery agencies can legally exercise their discretion on the limits they set so that we can capture the water when it is available. And the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposal by Governor Brown is expected to achieve further water supply reliability for 25 million Californians and millions of acres of productive farmland.”

From the Southern California Water Committee:

Today, the California Department of Water Resources announced that the water agencies who receive water from the State Water Project will receive five percent of their allocated water supplies. These agencies serve 25 million people, businesses and farms and many rely on State Water Project as a primary source of water. In Southern California, about 30 percent of our water comes from the State Water Project. The allocation announced today is an initial forecast, and may change as we move through the winter. However, this is only the second time in history the initial forecast has been so low. It underscores the need for us to modernize our water delivery system so that we have more reliable water supplies and more flexible water operations. It also underscores the need for Californians to keep conservation a priority year-round. Actions are underway now to revamp the state’s water system through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and while that is extremely important for stabilizing water supplies, we are also continuing to expand local water supplies through stormwater capture projects, water recycling and more.  

A low allocation is not just a reflection of the weather—our antiquated water system also limits how much water is available for the 25 million people, businesses and farms that rely on water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is a perfect example from earlier this year, we had a series of storms that could have given us enough water to serve one and half million people for an entire year, but instead of sending it to storage we were forced by environmental regulations to send it out to the ocean. We need a modern water system that allows us to take advantage of wet periods so we can store enough water to protect us during droughts and long dry spells. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan seeks to use today’s technology to ensure that we can access Sierra Nevada water, while protecting the environment.”

Rich Atwater
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

Established in 1984, the Southern California Water Committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public education partnership dedicated to informing Southern Californians about our water needs and our state’s water resources. Spanning Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Imperial, Riverside, Ventura and Kern Counties, the SCWC’s members include representatives from business, government, agriculture, water agencies, labor and the general public. Visit us at www.socalwater.org and find us on Facebook.
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