SACRAMENTO (CN) - Federal delivery of zero water to the Central Valley this year threatens the "potential devastation (of) tens of thousands of acres," state water authorities say. Water managers say the federal program designed to provide water to the Central Valley is broken.
For the second straight year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Central Valley Project will not receive any federal water.
"Last year we had a zero allocation at Friant and scrambled to make some water available through some district programs, water purchases, groundwater banks and groundwater pumping, and we were able to keep most of the orchards alive," Friant Water Authority General Manager Ronald Jacobsma told Courthouse News.
"But this year we're going in with less by way of reserves both from a water supply perspective and from a financial perspective for many growers. We are looking at potential devastation to tens of thousands of acres, particularly citrus."
The federally run Central Valley Project was devised in 1933 to provide irrigation and municipal water to much of California's Central Valley by regulating and storing water in reservoirs in the northern half of the state and transporting it to the water-poor San Joaquin Valley through a system of dams and reservoirs and 500 miles of canals.
During dry years, the project is unable to make all of its deliveries and the agricultural sector ends up on the losing end of water cuts.
This year, all of the project's agricultural water service contractors were allocated 0 percent of their contract quantity. The municipal and industrial contractors will receive either 25 percent of their historic use or enough water to meet their health and safety needs, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
"We are bracing for a potential fourth year of severe drought, and this low initial allocation is yet another indicator of the dire situation," Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo said. "Reclamation and the Department of the Interior will continue to work with the state of California and our water users to do everything possible to increase water deliveries from the project as we move into yet another difficult year. Our economy and environment depend on it."
The drought is not solely to blame for the water shortage situation, water authorities say.
"The federal government's Central Valley Project is broken," said Don Peracchi, president of Westlands Water District. "Its failure threatens the continued coordination of local, state and federal water agencies in operating the modern water system on which all of California depends. And as a result, some of the most vital elements of the state's economy are being allowed to wither and die."
Although it is easy to blame the drought, the project "was designed and built precisely for the purpose of alleviating the effects of far more serious droughts than what we are experiencing today," Peracchi said.
He said that from 1987 through 1992, in the midst of another prolonged drought, the Bureau of Reclamation was able to deliver 100 percent of its allocations for the first three years, followed by 50 percent, and then 25 percent the next two years.