For the first time since 2006, California officials increased allocations from the State Critical Water Project to 100% of the requested supply, as reservoirs across the state neared capacity and an epic snowpack that hasn’t melted yet.
ONE unusually wet winter brought unprecedented snowfall and a series of torrential downpours, bringing with it much of the state out of a multi-year drought and change the year’s water outlook.
“This is the largest allocation in several years now, and it reflects a very, very wet year,” said Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. “Even in the pretty wet years, we’re not 100% allotted.”
Just last year — as the state faced its third punitive drought — officials cut water allocation by 5% for those dependent on the State Water Project, a complex system of reservoirs, canals, and dams that supplies water to approximately 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland.
But this year has been a different story. Record high snow and ice in the Sierra have filled reservoirs to the mouth and forecasters have predicted Rainfall is above average in early May — two months later than the state’s rainy season usually ends.
“With reservoirs nearing their capacity and melting snow starting to occur, [the state Department of Water Resources] is now expected to provide 100% of the required water supply, up from 75% announced in March,” state officials said. said Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a corresponding increase to 100% of the required water allocation for most federally serviced areas. central valley projectwhich provides an important agricultural irrigation and water supply for the San Joaquin Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Central Valley.
For many of those areas, this will be the first time since 2017 that 100% of the supply is required.
“After two years of 0% interest allocation, this announcement will provide much-needed water to support [Westlands Water] Jose Gutierrez, interim superintendent of Westlands Water District, a Central Valley Project contractor serving most rural communities in Fresno and Kings counties, said County communities, family-run farms ownership and hardworking families in the San Joaquin Valley. “This water supply will help Westlands growers use the land to grow the food that feeds the world.”
Being able to complete allotted water will give farms some immediate relief, Lund said, but state and local officials still need to think about groundwater replenishment. because water scarcity will be an ongoing problem in California.
“It’s a matter of balancing how much you plant this year, versus making sure you get enough water…in those dry years,” says Lund. “This is a good year; store that groundwater while you can because it’s not always so good.”
He said he hopes to see farmers continue deserted some of their fields, especially in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley, where much of the groundwater is depleted.
Reservoirs across the state have continued to fill up in recent weeks – if not yet at capacity.
The San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, which holds water for both the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, reached 99% capacity Thursday, deemed full by state water officials. It reached 36% capacity in early January but has steadily increased, according to California Department of Water Resources data.
In Southern California, the Cachuma and Castaic reservoirs are at 99% and 96% capacity, respectively.
Lake Oroville in Butte County, which supplies the most water to the State Water Project, is expected to be full by the end of May, state water officials said. As of Thursday, it was at 89% capacity.
Lake Shasta, the Central Valley Project’s flagship reservoir, reached 94% capacity on Thursday, continuing to increase daily.
Overall, the state’s reservoirs are at 105% of average for this time of year, according to DWR data.
DWR officials say the ample supply has also allowed State Water Project officials to provide additional water to any contractor with available storage — in addition to the supplier’s annual allocation. local.
While the flooding is still ongoing concerns throughout the Central Valley, state and federal water regulators said they will continue to monitor the reservoirs. But with increased water distribution and planned discharge — for irrigation or salmon – officials said the reservoir is not expected to become a flood hazard.
But even in the face of what feels like excess water, Heather Cooley, a water researcher at the Institute of the Pacific, said it’s important to focus on California’s long-term water problems, particularly those critical groundwater basins that remain arid. Many residents in the Central Valley are still processing dry wellsand not everyone gets water from the State Water or Central Valley projects.
“Although we are seeing the replenishment of surface reservoirs, we still need to use water efficiently,” Cooley said. “The fact that we have water available this year gives us more time, but that doesn’t change the need to make those things. [long-term] changes in sustainability and resilience.”
And although California has most get rid of drought conditionsThe Colorado River Basin — a vital source of water for Southern California — remains in good condition The drought lasted for decades.
“This is a good year; next year – you never know,” Lund said. “It just reminds us that California has some very wet years and some very dry years.”