The Department of Water Resources plans to soon drop State Water Project allocations, following a temporary 15% bump after December storms. DWR Director Karla Nemeth outlined for the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday this and other coming actions.
DWR will resubmit a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP) to the board on Friday, after withdrawing the proposal in February. If approved, the emergency regulation will preserve stored supplies for critical human health and safety needs. The department is evaluating further actions to protect endangered fish as well this year and will close a notch in a Delta salinity barrier installed last year to prevent saltwater intrusion. DWR will also work on collaborative reductions with settlement contractors along the Feather and Sacramento rivers, which hold senior water rights that predate the formation of the state water board.
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If the March forecasts unfold as predicted, the state will set yet another record, this time for the driest three-month stretch in winter.
In response to the TUCP, Doug Obegi, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, blamed DWR for not preserving enough water in reservoirs last year to head off an environmental crisis for fish.
The drought update teed up a larger debate for Wednesday, which will involve board actions for temperature management in the Sacramento River to maintain suitable fish habitat.
The board’s latest data on urban water conservation, meanwhile, showed a 2.6% spike in water use in January compared to two years earlier, before Gov. Gavin Newsom had called for a 15% voluntary cutback. This puts overall savings since July at just 6%.