March 2017

Rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs are busting at the seams while excess water that can’t be captured flows out to the ocean. California is on track for record rain and snowfall totals, yet State and Federal regulators are operating the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) as if the system is short on water. Earlier this year, the Department of Water Resources estimated SWP contractors would receive just 60 percent of contracted amounts. This week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finally released CVP allocations, at just 65 percent for South of Delta Ag Contractors.

CVP allocations (2)

When cities and farms cannot get a full supply in a potentially record wet year, something is seriously wrong. The system is clearly broken.

The last time contractors from either project got a full water supply was in 2006. Total precipitation in the Northern Sierra has already surpassed levels from the 2005-2006 water year, as storms continue to blow through.

So why the short supply? What has changed?

State and federal policymakers need to ask why the water system is failing even during an historic wet winter, and identify a list of actions needed to tackle the problem.  Improved conveyance infrastructure, increased above and below ground storage, and creating more flexible operational parameters should be a top priority.

Without definitive action, farms and cities will continue to experience cutbacks. Groundwater levels will continue to fall without adequate supplies to restore them. Our reservoirs will continue overflowing, with no way to capture the excess water. And California residents, farms and businesses will continue to left HIGH AND DRY. It’s time for policy makers to start asking hard questions and demand some long overdue answers and improvements.