State Water Deliveries May Set New Low

State water officials have announced they are likely to release a record-low allocation of water to cities and farms next year– just five percent of what water contractors have requested. Though still preliminary, it’s the lowest allocation since the State Water Project began delivering water back in 1967.

The announcement may have caught some by surprise, since Department of Water Resources (DWR) data would seem to show reservoirs at higher levels than last year at this time, with major reservoirs at 69% of storage capacity, compared to 57% last year.

When I asked DWR Deputy Director Susan Simms about it, even she was stumped at first. But then she called me back to say that the data includes both federal and state reservoirs, and the state’s storage levels at both Lake Oroville and San Luis Reservoir (shared with the feds) is actually lower than last year (52% and 48% of “normal,” respectively). And, she says, the state has to contend with pumping restrictions to protect both salmon and delta smelt this time around.

DWR Director Lester Snow told reporters this morning that there’s nothing in the recently passed bundle of state water bills that can provide any immediate relief. And if you thought the prospect of increased precipitation from El Nino could save the day, don’t get out the umbrella just yet. David Rizzardo, Chief of the state’s Snow Survey section, estimates there’s only a 50-60% chance of a stronger El Nino kicking in this year. December and January will be the most telling months–but precipitation from El Nino would likely be concentrated in the southern half of the state. Officials say that would provide more “flexibility” in meeting water needs systemwide, but all of California’s biggest reservoirs are located in the northern part of the state.

December water delivery estimates almost always get a boost once it starts snowing. Last year’s initial projection was 15%, and that was later revised upward, eventually to 40 percent. Snow called today’s estimate “very conservative.”

If you think the five percent figure is supposed to scare us, it is. Water officials want to send a message that Californians need to be prepared to conserve. The state’s drought coordinator, Wendy Martin, just returned from a water tour in Australia, where she says she saw water-saving measures in place that California has yet to fully develop: storm water recapture, water recycling, and more. Martin also observed that the Australians now wish that they’d taken the epic drought of the last several years more seriously, sooner.

  • James Mayeau

    Is the DWR putting fish over humans? Lets make it more specific, is the DWR putting delta smelt over Latinos? Because these farming towns and communities that are being denied water, they are 80%-95% Latino.

    Plus we’ve had the fish survey. After a year of starving out the San Joaquin, instead letting the fish have all of the water, the DF&G boys find no difference in smelt totals.
    The lack of smelt and salmon had nothing to do with irrigation. That’s just a convenient con used to threaten the people of the valley.

    So what happened to the smelt? What’s changed?
    I know a thing, we have sea lions living here in Sacramento.
    Something else, an estimated 44,000 sea lion pups were born in SF bay this year.

    Yep, the DWR are picking sea lions over Madera Fresno and Tulare.
    This is an evil that will not stand.

  • James Mayeau

    This is one of the hidden below the radar impacts of environmental madness that has gripped California politics. Before the climate change scare Sacramento’s average yearly rainfall was 17.44 inches. That’s what was expected. Thats what they planned for.
    Then the global warming stuff popped up, and suddenly everything was about climate. They had to make a definition of climate. What is it? The climate scientists pick a sort of arbitrary number,(which they don’t apply to their own studies btw) thirty years.

    So we go from “the next ice age is coming” scare in 1975, to global warming in 1988. Totally ignoring their own criteria.
    About the only thing the thirty year label for climate actually is applied to is rainfall totals.
    As it happens 1980 to 2000 was one of the rainiest twenty years in California history. We had several 30 plus inch years.
    So now because these twenty years are the base of the new “normal” Sacramento is now “supposed” to get 19.88 inches of rain. That’s our new global warming “value added” average.

    Then we get totals like last year 16.5 inches, pretty close to the 100 year average, but because of AGW it’s called a drought year.

    Sasha you go and check it out. The Western regional climate center is on El Camino. See if I’m telling the truth or not.

  • Dixon Cruickshank

    You guys in CA should just go jump on a sword, would be quicker and less painful

    for the 30yr question – see: Climategate, 30 yrs fit the data and the agenda whatever it is?