Water Allocations in California Deemed Unfair
After the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a 65% initial allocation for those growing operations south of the Delta in the Central Valley of California, Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif declared the allocation “defies logic.” Particularly since the announcement follows another notice that other parts of the Central Valley would receive100% initial allocations.
The unusually high levels of rain over the winter led growers to hope for a 100% allocation, Western Growers says. Key storage facilities like the San Luis Reservoir were filled to capacity.
“With record-level precipitation and flooding, and fear of more to come, a 65 percent Central Valley Project initial water allocation for farmers south of the Delta defies logic,” Nassif says. “While an improvement over the 0% to 5% allocations of the past three years, the stark reality is inescapably obvious: Regulatory actions are depriving farmers and millions of Californians dependent on the farm economy of their livelihoods.”
Are there any recourses for the growers affected? Perhaps.
If the U.S. Bureau of Allocation determines conditions are favorable, and that the Sierra snowpack melt rate is just right, these growers may get a higher allocation, says Dave Puglia, Western Growers’ Executive Vice President.
“[A snow melt that is] too fast means no increase to the allocation,” Puglia says. “A moderate and steady melt rate means they can bank on healthy flows of cold runoff into the summer. That’s good for salmon management operations at Shasta, which can in turn allow for additional water to be released for delivery south of the Delta.”
A possible improved ruling doesn’t change the issues of this original ruling, however.
“The bottom line is that the initial allocation was delayed several weeks, frustrating growers who had to make planting decisions. Many of them can no longer adjust for a higher allocation,” Puglia says.
After this action from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Western Growers is watching other agencies that will have an impact on water resources.
“I think the priority now is to closely monitor the analyses and actions of the California Water Resources Control Board and the federal and state fish agencies. Those agencies have worked to unnecessarily restrict water deliveries south of the Delta in recent years,” Puglia says.
Here is Nassif’s full statement:
With record-level precipitation and flooding, and fear of more to come, a 65% Central Valley Project initial water allocation for farmers south of the Delta defies logic. While an improvement over the 0% to 5% allocations of the past three years, the stark reality is inescapably obvious: Regulatory actions are depriving farmers and millions of Californians dependent on the farm economy of their livelihoods. Populations of the fish species these actions purportedly protect have not recovered, yet this year federal and state agencies will again redirect massive amounts of water out to sea while shorting farmers. Meanwhile, local water managers are struggling to create plans that comply with a state groundwater management law that prohibits excess pumping of groundwater while their main supply of water to recharge those basins continues to be throttled down.
It is time for California to get serious about the building of additional storage capacity, as directed by the voters in approving the 2014 water bond. It is equally important for our elected officials to work with the appropriate government agencies to remove the punitive and unjustified regulatory chains jeopardizing the future of thousands of California farmers and the economic and social vitality of millions of our fellow Californians.