The Department of Water Resources (DWR) dropped State Water Project allocations from 10 to 5% on Wednesday due to emerging drought conditions.
“We are now facing the reality that it will be a second dry year for California,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.
The department does not anticipate it will need to make changes to protect water quality and outflow to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Bureau of Reclamation went further, announcing that water contractors south of the Delta will have allocations cut completely, after an initial 5% estimate. That decision to delay access to the allocation could change, however, depending on conditions.
Regional Director Ernest Conant said the bureau has lowered its expectations for the amount of water that will flow into Central Valley Project reservoirs.
Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham called this “a balanced, prudent” decision. Birmingham planned to work with federal and state officials “to find sensible approaches that reduce harm to people in rural areas and California’s important ecosystems by maximizing the beneficial use of every drop of water available.”
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In response to the cutbacks, Asm. Adam Gray of Merced said environmentalists “have ignored the impacts of climate change that demand we significantly expand our surface water reservoirs.”
“California’s water infrastructure is so broken that we can suffer from severe flooding and drought in the same year,” said Gray in a statement. “The real inconvenient truth for special interests like the Sierra Club and NRDC” is that “we need reservoirs that allow us to collect water all year long” due to the reduced snowpack.
Gray said his calls for increasing storage capacity “have fallen on deaf ears” ever since the 2014 Proposition 1 water bond he helped negotiate.