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Despite the Bay Area’s recent spattering of rain, persistent statewide drought conditions led federal water managers to announce severe restrictions Wednesday.
Municipal and industrial water users for much of the federal Central Valley Project, the backbone of the state’s water storage and delivery system, will receive only 25 percent of their water allocations, according to an initial announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
For many farmers, the news is even worse.
“Our agricultural customers have gotten a zero percent allocation and our urban customers, including industry, have only gotten 25 percent of their delivery and that’s bad news,” said Gary Kremen, chairman of the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board.
Valley Water, which serves roughly 2 million people and sells water to 13 different water retailers in the South Bay, draws about 25 percent of its water from the federal system.
“It’s super grim,” Kremen said. “We’re not happy. No one here is happy.”
Compounding its troubles, Valley Water only received 15 percent of its allocation from the state-run water system this year, Kremen said.
The water district is looking at trying to make “emergency” water purchases from other districts, asking the state to grant it more water based on human health and safety considerations, redoubling its conservation efforts and appealing to a higher power.
“We’re praying for rain like everyone else,” Kremen said.
Record dry spell
The announcement comes on the heels of a historically dry January and February and after the U.S. Drought Monitor classified most of the state as still enduring severe drought conditions.
With the state’s snowpack still well below normal levels for this date and most of its reservoirs still below historic averages, the stage was set for continued water restrictions and curtailments.
“It’s not surprising based on what’s in the reservoirs and the fact that it was a dry January and February,” said Jennifer Allen, spokesperson for Contra Costa Water District, which gets the majority of its water from the Central Valley Project and serves roughly 500,000 people in the central and eastern parts of the county.
“We have a continued dry pattern that is really unprecedented, and I don’t say that lightly. Every sector of California life is going to be affected by this drought.”Russell Callejo, Bureau of Reclamation
Allen said she expects the final decision on water deliveries from the federal system to come down the pipe in the next few months.
“Since this is the initial allocation, we’ll keep our existing drought program in place and continue to evaluate any changes that come during rest of the winter months,” she said.
A recent two-week measurement from the state Department of Water Resources forecast may put a damper on things, however.
It shows a decrease of 1.2 million acre-feet in the annual amount of water flowing into the federal system’s most important reservoirs — Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and New Melones.
“I wish that I had different news today. I don’t want to deliver this news,” said Russell Callejo, deputy regional director at the Bureau of Reclamation’s California Great Basin Region.
“We have a continued dry pattern that is really unprecedented, and I don’t say that lightly,” Callejo said. “Every sector of California life is going to be affected by this drought.”