REACTIONS to Reclamation’s updated Central Valley Project allocation of 100% water supplies for South-of-Delta contractors

Yesterday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced an updated Central Valley Project water allocation, giving full water supplies for south-of-Delta farmers.  Here are the reactions from organizations and legislators, presented in alphabetical order:

From the California Farm Water Coalition:

On the heels of yet another storm that brought us within .75 inches of breaking the all-time record wet year, the US Bureau of Reclamation announced 100 percent deliveries for water users south of the delta. Coming so late in the year, this usually joyful news is a bittersweet reminder of how broken California’s water system has become. Reservoirs have been essentially full since January, but with more than 15 federal, state and local agencies having jurisdictions over California water policy, the announcement was delayed until now, long after planting decisions have been made for the season.

For many long years, new water projects have been debated and delayed that could provide California with the water it needs. All the scientific studies have been done and the projects are ready to go. But the broken system prevents forward movement.

In 2014, voters authorized a water bond to end the delays and get started on water supply and storage projects that can meet our future needs. Two of those projects- Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir will not only help us meet the water supply needs of California, but will help improve ecosystem health as well. Sites Reservoir alone would yield enough water to serve almost 3 million people for a year. Temperance Flat Reservoir would add water for 1 million people or enough to grow 3 billion salads. Both projects would help refill depleted ground water supplies.

All Californians want to celebrate the end of the drought and a return to normalcy, but unless we fix our broken water system California’s new normal is promising to be perpetual scarcity, shortage, fear, and doubt. If left unchanged the only thing our broken system will yield is permanent drought for all Californians. The time to invest in our future is now.

From the California Water Alliance:

California Water Alliance (CalWA) executive director Aubrey Bettencourt today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s update to its 2017 water-supply allocation for all Central Valley Project contractors South-of-the-Delta to increase expected deliveries to 100 percent of their contract supply for the first time since 2006.

“Water reservoirs have been full beyond federal flood-control capacity limits on and off since December, and today nearly every surface-storage facility in the state has far more water than required or is entirely full,” said Bettencourt.

“Today the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced all water users located south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary will receive 100 percent of their contracted amounts,” she continued.

“The Central Valley Project’s allocation update came so late in the year that plans and preparation for agricultural planting in 2017’s growing season was mostly completed and many opportunities to raise more food were lost,” Bettencourt cautioned.

“The good news is that the CVP recognized that they could deliver surface water that would limit further pumping of overdrafted underground water supplies and help recharge those aquifers,” Bettencourt added.

In its press statement accompanying the update, Bureau spokesperson and Acting Regional Director Pablo Arroyave said, “Given the magnitude of this allocation, the amount of water carried over from last year, and the overall availability of surface water, Reclamation strongly encourages the use of surface supplies instead of ground water wherever possible through the remainder of the 2017 water year.”

“One good year after multiple years of reduced allocations and zero deliveries during the drought will not restore California’s Central Valley croplands nor the southland’s  cities, aquifers and water supplies to pre-drought conditions,” she said.

Now’s the time to look ahead as we prepare for our 21st century water challenges — modernizing our water infrastructure, providing water to meet the needs of our environmental protection programs and expanding our use of revolutionary new water technologies,” Bettencourt concluded.

From Congressman Jim Costa:

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the Central Valley Project 2017 Water Supply Allocations for south of Delta agricultural water districts including the member agencies of the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority, like San Luis Water District, Del Puerto Water District, Pacheco Water District, Panoche Water District and Westlands Water District. South of Delta agricultural water districts will receive a 100 percent allocation for the first time since 2006.

Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement:

“It’s been a decade since Valley farmers have received their full water allocation in the federal service area. Today’s announcement is long overdue, but it is very welcome news for farmers, farm workers, and communities in the San Joaquin Valley.  Agriculture is the backbone of our Valley’s economy, and this much needed water will allow farmers to plant the healthy and nutritious crops that feed our nation and world.

“While I applaud today’s announcement, there is no denying that California’s water system is broken, and further action must be taken to move California’s water system into the 21st century. Investments need to be made to build water storage and fix broken water infrastructure, so that more water can be captured during years with above average rain and snow fall. Additionally, the current policies that operate California’s water system are flawed and must be modified. Water that could be stored or used to recharge groundwater aquifers that have been depleted because of the drought is flowing out to the ocean. The status quo not only defies logic but is simply not sustainable.”

Last month, Costa condemned the Bureau’s delayed announced of the initial water allocation for the CVP, which was 65 percent.

From the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority:

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) that allocations have been increased to 100 percent for South of Delta farms is welcome news and recognizes the abundance of this year’s near-record rainfall and snowpack.

The increased allocation is appreciated however the timing of the announcement comes after many planting decisions have been made. Many factors tie Reclamation’s hands including a web of over 15 federal, state and local agencies that have led to a broken system that fails to work well for anyone. Check out this infograph outlining the complex network of agencies involved.

We appreciate Reclamation’s willingness to allow farmers to use water they purchased and saved last year and is still sitting in storage. The threat of losing this water meant that farmers who conserved could have been punished for actual conservation.

From Congressman David Valadao:

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced an update to the 2017 water allocation for San Joaquin Valley agricultural service contractors who receive water through the Central Valley Project (CVP).

Despite an abundance of precipitation this rainy season, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation originally announced a sixty five percent allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors and a ninety percent allocation for Municipal & Industrial (M&I) contractors. However, today, the Bureau announced water supplies would be increased to one hundred percent of contract supply for all South-of the Delta CVP contractors.

Following the announcement, U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) stated, “Although it is unfortunate that today’s announcement came so late in the growing season, I am encouraged by the increased allocation and hope such decisions will be determined earlier moving forward.” He continued, “Access to a clean, reliable water supply is the lifeblood of the Central Valley’s booming agricultural economy, and is imperative to the everyday lives of all Valley families. Today’s announcement also emphasizes the need to improve our water infrastructure. In doing so, water from storms, such as those we experienced this winter, could be captured to satisfy all contractual obligations, and stored for future dry years.”

Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties.

From Westlands Water District:

Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of an allocation increase for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water service contractors from 65 percent to 100 percent is certainly good news. For farmers with permanent crops, the increase is a real blessing. Those farmers will have sufficient, good quality surface water to irrigate their orchards and vineyards that suffer damage when irrigated with poorer quality groundwater. This allocation decision will enable all farmers to avoid pumping an overdrafted groundwater basin.

But today’s announcement helps underscore a fundamental problem; under existing regulations the CVP is unable to operate as originally designed. The last time Reclamation allocated 100 percent to south-of-Delta agricultural water service contractors was more than a decade ago, in 2006, another exceptionally wet year. In the interim, the State of California has experienced wet years, average years, and dry years. The CVP was designed to deliver full supplies in all types of water years, and the contracts between the United States and the public water agencies that supply farmers stipulate allocation announcements will be made in mid-February. This is intended to enable farmers to make timely planting decisions. However, in the decade since 2006, we have experienced allocations ranging from zero to 80 percent. For three consecutive years, 2014, 2015, and 2016, the allocation amounted to zero. (In 2016, the allocation was 5 percent, but farmers were told the allocation could not be used during the irrigation season.) For farmers who had to make planting decisions several months ago, today’s announcement of an increase in supply comes too late in the season to aid their operations.

For much of the past two and a half decades, farmers have been forced to make all too familiar and unfortunate decisions to lay off employees, cancel farm plans, and idle much of the most productive farmland in the world, simply because the water delivery system in the state has been paralyzed by laws and regulations. Policies that prevent the CVP from making adequate water supplies available for farmers, except in the most extreme wet years, must be reexamined.

One last positive note, the water unused from this year’s allocation will remain in storage for next year. We look forward to a timely, adequate allocation for the next growing season.

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