Sacramento, CA — California’s drought has the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) making history as it has taken action to preserve the remaining water supplies.
The DWR reports it will not allocate water to agencies that serve 25 million people and nearly 1 million acres of farmland. The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the SWP that such an action has been taken. State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin says the action was being taken to conserve the little water than remains behind the dams in the state’s vast system of reservoirs.
“The harsh weather leaves us little choice,” stressed Cowin. “If we are to have any hope of coping with continued dry weather and balancing multiple needs, we must act now to preserve what water remains in our reservoirs.”
Governor Jerry Brown’s drought State of Emergency prompted the move. Cowin adds the Governor directed the DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to modify requirements that hinder conservation of currently stored water and to allow flexibility within the state’s water system to maintain operations and meet environmental needs. Brown has asked all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent.
Brown had this reaction to the announcement, “Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real. We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.”
The DWR reports except for a small amount of carryover water from 2013, customers of the SWP will get no deliveries in 2014 if current dry conditions continue and deliveries to agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut 50 percent. That is the maximum permitted by the contract depending upon future snow surveys.
“It is our duty to give State Water Project customers a realistic understanding of how much water they will receive from the Project,” said Director Cowin. “Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project.”
In addition, the DWR has asked the SWRCB to adjust water permit terms that control the project and federal Central Valley Project operations in order to preserve dwindling supplies in upstream reservoirs.
DWR officials say while additional winter storms may provide a limited boost to reservoir storage; it would need to rain and snow heavily every other day from now until May to get us back to average annual rain and snowfall. Even then, they say California still would be in a drought due to the untypically dry winter months for the past three years.