Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant described to the State Board of Food and Agriculture on Tuesday how unprecedented the current drought is.
The Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, with senior water rights, are entitled to 75% of their Central Valley Project (CVP) allocation under their contract.
“But they're not going to get anywhere near that this year, because we simply don't have the water,” said Conant, adding that he expected it to land at around 20%.
The agency is limiting water releases from Lake Shasta to 4,500 cubic feet per second—more than 30% below the previous record low. Last year the contractors voluntarily reduced their allocation to 65%, leading to about 200,000 acre-feet of water for transfers. Conant expects “basically no water being moved” and smaller contractors to not operate their systems this year, since it would not make sense to “gear up the system” for such little water.
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“There's going to be hundreds of thousands of acres in the Sacramento Valley that have never been fallowed before and are going to be fallowed this year,” he warned.
Reclamation has zeroed out allocations to other irrigation districts.
The bureau also announced Friday that CVP allocations to cities will be limited to basic public health and safety, based on a formula of 55 gallons per person per day.
“So you're going to see a lot of brown lawns throughout the CVP and [State Water Project] and other places this summer,” said Conant.