Bureau increases water allocation to senior water rights holders

The Bureau of Reclamation has increased from 75 percent to 100 percent the water allocation to senior water rights holders and wildlife refuges north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The increases result from additional precipitation, improved snowpack, and improved runoff into Shasta Reservoir since the March snow surveys by the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR).

Further, due to improved inflow to Millerton Lake, the Friant Division Class I allocation has increased from 65 percent to 85 percent. The bureau is working closely with Central Valley Project (CVP) Municipal and Industrial (M&I) contractors both north and south of the Delta to determine if, to meet public health and safety needs, adjustments are needed to their allocations.

With additional supply in the CVP system, more water may be available through the joint DWR/Reclamation Drought Water Bank, helping to meet critical water needs statewide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to postpone the summer delivery of a large portion of its San Joaquin Valley water to federal wildlife refuges until later in the year, freeing the water for other uses.

After three consecutive years of dry and critically dry conditions, the allocation for CVP agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta remains at zero percent and the allocation for M&I water contractors south of the Delta remains at 50 percent. The allocation to agricultural water service contractors north of the Delta is 5 percent, and the allocation to M&I contractors north of the Delta is 55 percent. These allocations are based on DWR’s March snow survey and also reflect the effects of various actions taken to address endangered species and water quality related issues.

One of the most impacted areas in California is the Central Valley, where thousands of acres are being fallowed and the unemployment rate has soared. In February, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a state of emergency proclamation a result of the ongoing drought and directing immediate action to address the water supply situation. The governor requested assistance from the Secretary of the Interior under the Reclamation Drought Relief Act, and Secretary Ken Salazar will soon announce his concurrence.

“I recently met with many of our affected water users to identify ways to minimize the adverse effects of this unprecedented allocation, and I saw firsthand its effects on unemployed workers,” stated Donald Glaser, regional director for the Mid-Pacific Region. “We are scheduling a series of meetings in these severely affected areas to explore every option to develop near-term and mid-term strategies to maximize the use of the entire CVP water supply and to determine how best to use existing authorities to address the most critical needs.”

The fourth snow survey of the winter season will be conducted this week. With the additional precipitation experienced since the March snow survey and with improved runoff into CVP reservoirs, reclamation anticipates announcing an updated water supply allocation in mid-to-late April.

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