Farm organizations and water agencies react to Central Valley Project initial allocation

Reactions sliderboxCalifornia Farm Water Coalition, Santa Clara Valley Water District, San Juan Water District, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, and Westlands Water District respond

Earlier today, the Bureau of Reclamation released its long-awaited and dreaded allocation for the Central Valley Project.  Here are the reactions from from agencies and organizations, listed in alphabetical order:

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

CFBF logoWater shortages mean more rural suffering, farm leader says

Continued drought and problems in water management combine to extend the suffering in rural communities, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. CFBF President Paul Wenger said today’s announcement that the federal Central Valley Project will likely deliver no water to most of its agricultural customers—for a second straight year—reinforces the need to move quickly on water projects authorized by the Proposition 1 water bond and on congressional reform of environmental laws.

“The CVP announcement is both saddening and maddening,” Wenger said. “It’s saddening because the continued cutoff of water will prolong the impact of water shortages on farmers, their employees and rural communities. It’s maddening because California still struggles to manage water wisely and flexibly, especially in dry years.”

Wenger noted ongoing conflicts in water management, specifically about how much water is repeatedly dedicated to protection of fish and wildlife at the expense of jobs and food production for people.

“In a year like this, when every drop of water is more precious than ever, we must improve our ability to store storm flows when we can,” he said. “People have real frustration about bureaucratic decisions that send excess water out to sea beyond what’s needed for the ecosystem and delta water quality, when that water could be stored for later use, both by people and in the environment.”

Wenger said the continued drought lends urgency to the current process of allocating money to be invested from the water bond approved by California voters last November.

“Farm Bureau and other organizations will continue to work with the California Water Commission to ensure that bond money for surface-water storage projects is apportioned as rapidly and as effectively as possible,” Wenger said. “We are suffering now from our past failure to improve our water system. We shouldn’t compound the suffering by studying projects to death. It’s time to invest the money that Californians voted to invest.”

He also called on Congress to move quickly “to provide relief from rigid environmental laws that have failed to balance species protections with human needs.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 57,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

From Mike Wade at the California Farm Water Coalition:

cfwc logoAnother zero water allocation for Valley farms – Unemployment, food lines in California’s food basket

Today’s announcement that farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys will receive zero percent of their contracted supplies from the federal Central Valley Project is a tragic repeat of last year. In 2014 the state’s farm economy lost more than $2 billion and more than 17,000 jobs as a direct result of water shortages, according to a report by the University of California.  Another zero allocation means impacts to California are expected to be as bad or worse this year.

The zero allocation is even more troubling because the amount of water available in past years has been similar to this year, yet farmers still received water on their federal contracts. In 1991 and 1992 Lake Shasta storage was slightly less than it is today and the Bureau of Reclamation delivered 25 percent of the contract allotment to farmers. Today, with a similar amount of water in Lake Shasta farmers will get a zero allocation. There is something terribly wrong with that.

Last year UC Davis economists reported on direct and indirect costs, with farmers, ranchers and dairy operators losing $1 billion in revenue. Additional emergency pumping and other economic costs pushed the total to $2.2 billion.  Farmers fallowed 428,000 acres of productive farmland, an area almost one and a half times the size of Los Angeles, because they had no water to raise crops.. The economists also estimated 17,100 farm workers would lose their seasonal or full-time work on valley farms.

Those numbers will likely climb this year.

As rural Californians face an uncertain future, their communities will continue to struggle with mounting unemployment and economic hardship brought on by water supply shortages. Many counties, cities and civic groups will strain to meet the growing needs of the unemployed because significant parts of California depend on water that isn’t coming.

Many communities are facing unemployment rates between 22 and 31%, while food banks in California’s farm regions have seen a rise in food box deliveries of nearly 925% between May of 2014 and January 2015.

The effects of an upcoming fourth year of drought will be heightened because state and federal regulations prevent existing water flowing through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to be stored south of the Delta for use later this year. The regulations are in place to protect endangered fish but after 20 years of water supply cuts to farms and cities, there is no evidence that they have helped. These regulations need to be rewritten with a common sense approach that benefits people and the environment.

Thousands of farmers and more than 2 million acres of farmland may be impacted by the cutback in water deliveries. That could force farmers to again take land out of production or seek alternate sources of water that too often come with a price tag greater than $2,000 per acre-foot, more than ten times the normal cost for untreated, agricultural water.

From the Santa Clara Valley Water District:

SCVWD-LogoSanta Clara County to receive 25 percent allocation of federal water

“On Feb. 27, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water district’s initial agricultural allocation is at zero, and initial municipal and industrial allocation is 25 percent of historic use, amounting to 32,500 acre-feet. The district’s maximum contract allocation from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) is 152,500 acre-feet out of an annual countywide water demand of 365,000 acre-feet.

This announcement emphasizes the scarcity of water statewide and the importance of reducing water use immediately.

This announced allocation of water from the federal system is 50 percent of last year’s allocation. An acre-foot is how much water two families of five use in one year. In January, the State Department of Water Resources announced its allocations of State Water Project (SWP) delivery at 15 percent of the district’s 100,000 acre-foot contracted amount. This equates to 15,000 acre-feet.

Sierra Nevada snowpack is only 19 percent of historical average for February 26. Much of the state’s water falls as snow in the Sierra Nevada, and the state conducts surveys to determine how much water will be available when the snow melts in spring. The state will measure again on Tuesday.

A full 40 percent of the county’s water supply is imported from Sierra Nevada watersheds runoff through these two water conveyance systems.

The result of the announcements is that imported water supplies from the CVP and SWP, will be one third of normal year imports and we need to restore 80,000 acre-feet of local groundwater reserves (equal to 20 percent of county normal water supply) that we have relied on over these past few dry years. Furthermore, the lack of rain has resulted in less water to replenish the groundwater basin.

Due to the drought, this county has relied heavily on groundwater to meet the water supply demands of the community. As a result, groundwater reserves were reduced by nearly 80,000 acre-feet in 2014, and water levels exceeded the subsidence threshold in one area of the county during the summer and fall of 2014. Currently, groundwater levels are approaching subsidence thresholds at several locations in the county, and we are increasingly concerned that permanent land subsidence and saltwater intrusion may resume.  This may impact underground infrastructure, such as sanitary and storm water sewer lines, as well as flood protection and could result in tidal flooding along the Bay shoreline.

In February 2014, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution calling for mandatory measures to reach a water use reduction target equal to 20 percent of 2013 water use, through Dec. 31, 2014. In November 2014, the board extended the call for 20 percent conservation through June 30, 2015.

In 2014, the county’s water use reached a 13 percent decline from 2013 numbers. In December 2014, that level reached the 20 percent goal. However, entering a fourth straight drought year with fewer stored supplies and a dismal snowpack will require more aggressive conservation. Allocations from the CVP have not been this low for urban water agencies since the 1991 and 1977 droughts.  The water district began receiving deliveries from the CVP in 1987.

A priority of the district is continued delivery of safe, clean water from its treatment plants. With little local reservoir storage, the district’s three treatment plants will depend largely on limited supplies of imported water. Imported water typically provides more than 85 percent of the supply for the water district’s three water treatment plants, and in dry and critically dry years when local surface water is limited, up to 99 percent of treated drinking water is from imported water sources. With less fresh water flowing through the Delta, salinity levels have increased in our imported water supply and are expected to be higher later in the year. The district has been working closely with retail water agencies to maintain drinking water quality the past year and will continue to do so in 2015.

The district’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, a component of the district’s 10-year Urban Water Management Plan, called for a reduction in water use of up to 20 percent when the county’s groundwater supplies are projected to drop below 250,000 acre-feet by the end of the calendar year. Should the groundwater levels continue to decline there will be the need for greater conservation.

The district continues to pursue the purchase of additional water supplies, to educate the public on immediate water use reduction measures, to collaborate with municipal and private water providers and to expand the rebate program that communities will need to embrace conservation as a way of life.

Water use reduction programs and conservation tips can be found at

From San Juan Water District:

SJWD logoSan Juan Water District Responds to CVP Federal Water Allocations

We all know that California is facing an extraordinary drought. This morning’s announcement of federal water allocations through the Central Valley Project is indicative of the severity of our states water supply.

This year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation initial allocation is to provide 25 percent of San Juan Water District’s historical water use of CVP water, half of last year’s allocation. Updated allocations will be announced between now and May and we hope the forecast improves. Combined with access to other water supplies, we anticipate having access to similar amounts of water as last year. These unprecedented cuts in CVP water deliveries highlight the critical need for continued water conservation.

San Juan Water District’s historical use of CVP water is very small, so as a result, this year’s 25 percent allocation is very small. We did not use any of our historical CVP water allocation last year and anticipate not using any this year either.

Last year, SJWD retail customers reduced their water use by 32 percent after entering mandatory water conservation stages in February. This January, customers continued those efforts, cutting water use by 34 percent compared to January 2014. Our board is calling on our customers to continue their significant conservation measures this year.

The San Juan Water District Board of Directors has been planning for continued drought, approving projects that allow the district to access alternative water supplies. These projects, in partnership with Placer County Water Agency and Sacramento Suburban Water District, will be completed this fall. They will provide alternative water supplies for droughts as well as emergency access to water if it is not available from Folsom Lake.

Folsom Lake, our source for water supplies, reached historical lows in early 2014, prompting immediate water conservation measures. Because of warm winter storms late last year, current water levels in Folsom Lake are higher than average – but that won’t last. The latest snow surveys show almost no snowpack, meaning we’ll have minimal runoff into Folsom Lake in the spring and summer. Because of the low snowpack, we will likely see Folsom Lake drop to very low levels this year.

I’m asking all our customers to continue conserving water while the district works diligently to construct projects that secure alternative water supplies. Although we will have the same amount of water overall as last year, the state remains in a dire drought. Please stay tuned for more information from San Juan Water District on our water availability.

– Shauna Lorance, general manager, San Juan Water District

From the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority:

sldmwa logoZero water allocation for farmers; farm worker hardships to be repeated

Statement by Dan Nelson, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority:

Fallowed farmland and an increase in unemployment among rural communities along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley will be repeated this year following today’s announcement of zero percent water deliveries from the federal Central Valley Project. We experienced an identical situation last year. The hardships suffered by workers who lost their jobs and were forced to stand in food lines will unfortunately be expanded.

The announcement today has been framed as a result of dry conditions and that is undoubtedly a factor. Not mentioned in the announcement are the crippling effects of regulations on California’s water system.

Despite a likely fourth year of drought in 2015 there is water in the system that is available for use. Yet ineffective regulations to protect fish species are preventing that water from going to cities, farms and wildlife habitat south of the Delta.

In 1992, water stored behind Shasta Dam was almost identical to the level currently in the reservoir. Farmers received 25 percent of their water contracts in 1992 but today they will receive zero. Clearly it is not just the drought.

Furthermore, what is making this more frustrating is that the ineffectiveness of the regulations designed to protect fish is not being discussed by the agencies charged with protecting wildlife.

From the Westlands Water District:

Westlands-Water-DistrictStatement of Don Peracchi, President of Westlands Water District, on Bureau of Reclamation’s Allocation Announcement

For the second year in a row, California farmers will not be receiving any water from the Central Valley Project. The announcement today from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that more than one million acres of highly productive farmland will once again receive a zero allocation of water this year should make one thing abundantly clear.

The federal government’s Central Valley Project is broken. Its failure threatens the continued coordination of local, state and federal water agencies in operating the modern water system on which all of California depends. And as a result, some of the most vital elements of the state’s economy are being allowed to wither and die.

It is easy to blame this failure on the drought. But that is only a little bit true. There is no question that dry conditions in 2014 and 2015 have contributed to the crisis. But the Central Valley Project was designed and built precisely for the purpose of alleviating the effects of far more serious droughts than what we are experiencing today.

From 1987 through 1992, for example, in the midst of another prolonged drought that makes the current dry conditions pale in comparison, Reclamation was able to deliver 100%, 100%, 100%, 50%, 25%, and 25% of its normal allocations in each of those years.

Indeed, when Reclamation designed the Central Valley Project, it calculated how much water the system could reliably deliver even during a repeat of the most extreme drought that California suffered, from 1928 to 1934. And Reclamation based its decision on how much water it could make available to farmers based on that calculation.

Contrast that with the failure we are facing today. In 2013, a mere two years after the torrential rains we all experienced in 2011, the Central Valley Project was only able to deliver 20% of its normal supplies to farmers south of the Delta. And in 2014, Reclamation was not only unable to deliver any water to farmers, it could not even meet the “core demands” of its contractual obligation to senior water right holders on the San Joaquin River and its statutory obligation to managed wetlands.

Now, in 2015, we are told that the water supply conditions will be even worse than in 2014.

Why is the Central Valley Project no longer capable of fulfilling the basic purposes for which it was built? Don’t blame the drought. There is no question that new federal rules and regulations restricting the flow of water have contributed greatly to the human suffering that will occur in this third year of nearly zero or grossly inadequate allocations. And what is particularly tragic is that these new rules and regulations, which are intended to benefit threatened fish species, are based on conjecture and unproven theories that have done nothing to protect fish populations. Instead, fish populations continue to decline.

The governor has a plan for addressing California’s water crisis, and the public’s support for the water bonds last year is helping to implement it. But the breakdown in the Central Valley Project is not a problem that can be solved in Sacramento by the long-term solutions proposed in the governor’s plan. Fortunately California’s leaders from both political parties in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been working together for more than a year on legislation that would help to restore reliability to our water system in order to protect the economy and the environment.

In 1992, when Barbara Boxer first ran for the Senate, she challenged Californians to stand up for the issues they cared about. “Where are the voices?” she asked. “Where’s the spine? Where’s the anger? This isn’t about some theory. This is about [people’s] lives.”

Today is a very sad day for the people in California and all over the country who depend on food grown by farmers who receive water from the Central Valley Project. Today is a very sad day for the workers who will be without jobs because farmers have no water. And today is a very sad day for the environment, which will continue to decline because federal agencies trusted with protecting at-risk fish species are content to tie the hands of project operators whose mission is delivering water for human needs, while these same agencies do nothing to address the numerous factors that limit fish populations.

As she winds up her long career in public service, Senator Boxer’s questions are just as vital as ever. Where are the voices? Where’s the spine? Where’s the anger? This isn’t about some theory. This is about people’s lives.


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