With bureaucratic requirements and water rights as convoluted as they are, the California Water Resources Control Board April 27 approved a request to more efficiently transfer water south of the Delta to address critical supply needs.
The executive decision approved a joint petition by the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project to expedite transfers between the two agencies, ensuring that water gets to users who need it most during the fourth year of extreme drought conditions.
Water rights have a specific place of use attached to them. The State Water Board approval temporarily consolidates the place of use for the state and federal water projects, making transferring water between them easier.
The Department of Water Resources, which operates the State Water Project, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central Valley Project, filed a joint petition on March 25 for the temporary transfer under Water Code Section 1725.
The petition involves 20 water rights requesting to transfer up to 335,560 acre-feet of water through multiple exchanges. Last year’s transfer request was for 277,863 acre-feet. The transfer opportunity will be in effect from May 1 to April 30, 2016.
The transfers and exchanges provide a mechanism to move water already located south of the Delta – in surface storage or as banked groundwater – between agencies and districts that are experiencing critical water supply restrictions. It differs from other transfer petitions the State Water Board is likely to receive in 2015 because it addresses the critical water supply needs of a vast area of California.
The transfers and exchanges will not increase the quantity or alter the timing of diversions from the Delta or the San Joaquin River. There are no expected impacts to north of Delta flows.
Agencies and districts that will benefit from the transfers and exchanges span the state and include Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Kern County Water Agency, Westlands Water District, Kern Tulare Water District, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Musco Olive Products Inc., Oak Flat Water District and Del Puerto Water District.
The transfer provides water at times when it would not otherwise be available to save crops and provides the opportunity to better manage groundwater banks to leave more water in those facilities.