On Monday, officials announced the allocation for the State Water Project would be initially set at 10%; this figure could be increased or decreased, depending on how the season plays out. Here are the reactions I’ce collected, listed in alphabetical order:
From the Kern County Water Agency:
Yesterday, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the State Water Project (SWP) initial water allocation is 10 percent of contracted amounts. This means fewer than 100,000 acre-feet of water would be delivered to Kern County water users from the SWP in 2015—compared to the contracted amount of about one million acre-feet. The SWP provides water to more than 25 million residents and more than 750,000 acres of agricultural land throughout California.
“Coming off an extremely dry year, and last year’s initial SWP allocation of just 5 percent, a 10 percent SWP allocation is a hopeful improvement over this year’s hydrology. California is in the third year of a drought and desperately needs a large water year. This year, we’ve had to rely on groundwater to make up the deficit for lost supplies due to the drought and we need high flow water to replenish the groundwater basin,” said Kern County Water Agency (Agency) Board of Directors President Ted Page. “Today, while most of Kern County is experiencing some much needed rain, it’s important to remember that we are still in a drought and we need a lot more storms like this one before we’re out of a drought. So, in the near-term, we will continue implementing creative water management strategies to help deal with this shortage.”
Each year, DWR issues a conservative initial allocation estimate since the State normally receives more than 90 percent of its snow and rain from December through April. Today’s allocation is expected to increase as more storms occur.
This initial allocation underscores the need for a comprehensive solution to the state’s water crisis. The Agency is part of a diverse coalition of California water agencies that have invested more than $240 million to develop the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The goal is to help ensure that Kern County’s agricultural economy can continue to sustain thousands of local jobs as well as provide a reliable and affordable water supply for the tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the metropolitan Bakersfield area.
“We are working to achieve a cost-effective statewide solution that balances environmental, agricultural, businesses and residential needs while also ensuring a sufficient, reliable and consistent water supply for generations to come. Today’s announcement only strengthens our resolve,” Page concluded.
From the Metropolitan Water District:
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement about the initial State Water Project allocation of 10 percent.
“This initial allocation is a reminder that it will take more than a few wet weekends to end California’s three-year dry cycle. While expected, this announcement reflects the seriousness of the statewide water situation.
“Thanks to investments by ratepayers over the years to increase our storage network, Southern California is in fairly favorable shape entering 2015, with considerable supplies still in reserve. We, however, must carefully manage our remaining reserves.
“Next week, our Board of Directors is scheduled to consider a revised water allocation plan that will allow Metropolitan to restrict supplies to its member agencies, if necessary. A vote to restrict supplies could happen early next year based on conditions. While Metropolitan won’t likely know until next spring the total amount of water available from Northern California in 2015, we are fully prepared and urge everyone to re-examine their conservation efforts.”
From the Southern California Water Committee:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced a 10 percent initial allocation of water supplies for the public water agencies served by the State Water Project. This allocation is the first estimate of how much water will be available from the State Water Project in 2015, and the estimate may go up or down depending on winter and spring precipitation. Although recent storms allowed DWR to forecast slightly higher initial allocations than 2014, 10 percent of water deliveries is still low, especially as California closes out a record dry year. Ongoing drought conditions prevented an increase in last year’s initial allocation, and water agencies only received 5 percent of water deliveries in 2014—the lowest final allocation ever. Public water agencies that receive water from the State Water Project provide water to 26 million people, businesses and farms throughout the state. Southern California depends on the State Water Project for roughly 30 percent of its water supplies.
The low allocation underscores the need for Californians to make conservation a priority year-round. Southern California Water Committee and Clear Channel Outdoor just last week announced the second phase of a digital billboard campaign focused on water conservation and efficiency. The new billboards, generously donated by Clear Channel Outdoor, are aimed at encouraging Californians to remove turf and invest in water-wise landscaping.
“Rain may be passing through, but the state remains deep in drought as we approach 2015. Californians are doubling down on water conservation and those efforts need to be sustained because we don’t know what is in store this winter and beyond. Water agencies throughout Southern California have made investments to protect against drought—building state-of-the-art water recycling facilities, using modern systems to capture rainwater, increasing local storage and ramping up conservation programs, but we need significant rain and snow in order to make the most out of these investments.”
Southern California Water Committee
From the State Water Contractors:
Public water agencies may only receive 10 percent of allotted water supplies in 2015 from the State Water Project (SWP), the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today. At the end of each calendar year, DWR provides an initial estimate of how much water may be delivered in the upcoming year to public water agencies that get water from the SWP. Forecasted precipitation allowed DWR to set the initial allocation at 10 percent, but 95 percent of the state is still in severe drought as we move into the winter months.
Improved rainfall conditions could increase allocations, but there is no guarantee, and DWR cautioned that allocations could decrease if dry conditions return. The 2014 water year ended the same as it started, with a historic low final allocation, and water agencies received just 5 percent of their contractual water amounts. This week’s precipitation did boost water levels in several of the state’s key reservoirs, including Lake Oroville, the primary reservoir for the SWP. However, recent storms still leave Northern California below the average amount of precipitation for this time of year.
“We are grateful for the rain, but we will need more storms to recoup from months of drought—we are still rolling from one brutally dry year to the next,” said Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors. “We closed out 2014 with record-low water deliveries, and the forecast for 2015 is not much better.”
DWR will provide water agencies with periodic estimates of how much water they will receive from the SWP as the winter progresses. The estimate is quantified as a percentage of how much water may be available to public water agencies under their contracts with the state. Regardless of how much is actually delivered, SWP contractors are required to pay for 100 percent of the amount of water included in their contracts.
Sequential dry years in California have taken a toll throughout the state. Water agencies rely on reservoir and groundwater storage, water recycling, reuse and other efficiency strategies to continue serving customers during drought. But after consecutive dry years, water supplies stored in reservoirs are well below average for this time of year.
“We are using every tool available to stretch water supplies, but another year without a substantial amount of new water will be devastating for California,” added Erlewine. “If the drought doesn’t feel real to you yet, it will in 2015 unless we get a wet winter.”
Water agencies across the state have developed local water projects, worked to carefully manage limited supplies and implemented more stringent conservation measures, incentives and efficiency programs in order to save water. However, these efforts alone will not bring California out of a drought. We need significant snow and rain to provide near-term relief, and a better system in place that allows water managers to access water when it’s abundant.
Snowpack produced in the Sierra Nevada Mountains normally provides roughly one-third of the water used in California—melting over time, flowing through rivers and into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). The water that originates in the Sierra Nevada serves 26 million Californians, businesses and three million acres of farmland from the Bay Area to Southern California through the SWP and Central Valley Project.
Lack of snow coupled with increased environmental regulations has made water supply management a mounting challenge. The state and water agencies are often required to halt or dramatically slow down deliveries to comply with regulations and, in recent years, these actions resulted in a significant loss of water supplies. For example, in late 2012 and early 2013, storms came through that would have replenished south of Delta reservoirs, but because of environmental restrictions, the state was unable to capture 800,000 acre-feet of water. That amount of water would have served roughly 1.5 million households for one year.
Had a tunnel system been in place to move the water in 2012 and 2013, such as that proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), water agencies would have had the flexibility to capture more water. 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 relies on 100-year-old dirt levees that usher water from the Sierra Nevada through the 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.
“Water agencies are working to manage water supplies and serve their customers during today’s drought while also planning for the next one,” added Erlewine. “We need to make investments now so that California can bear the impacts of future droughts.”
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