The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Friday that initial water allocations from the Central Valley Project will be at low levels. Agricultural contractors will receive zero allocations from the project, while municipal and industrial contractors will receive half of what they historically recieve.
The Central Valley Project is a system of reservoirs and canals overseen by the federal government that in normal years supplies more than two trillion gallons of water, mostly to farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.
Michael Connor, bureau commissioner, said in a written statement that the low allocations were indicative of the severe drought that has impacted California for the past three years.
Officials at agricultural water districts said that they weren’t surprised by the zero allocation.
“We literally need biblical-style rainfall to increase our water allocation from zero,” said Gayle Holman, a spokeswoman for the Westlands Water District, which serves mostly farms in Fresno and Kings counties. “Our fear right now is that we are going to remain at zero through the whole year, and that will have long term devastating effects.”
Holman said the district anticipates that about a third of the land it serves will go unplanted – an area of about 300 square miles.
Southern California water officials said the announcement would not have a direct impact locally.
“That’s not a source of supply for Southern California, but the low allocation is indicative of how serious of a drought that California is experiencing,” said Bob Muir of the Metropolitan Water District. “[It] even points to the need for people to pitch in and conserve 20 percent of their supplies.”
MWD isn’t likely to get the water it usually gets from the State Water Project, but district officials they have enough water stored up to get the region through the year without mandatory restrictions.
Holman said that farmers in Central California will have to rely on groundwater or on purchasing water from rights holders if they want to grow crops. Even that, though, is a tough prospect.
“Eighty-five percent of the state of California is experiencing the drought, so additional water is going to be very, very difficult to come by this year,” Holman said.