Feds Raise Water Allocations for Farmers. Westlands Isn’t Impressed.
Citing the latest storms sweeping through California, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved a slight increase in water allocation to westside farmers. The agency that provides water to those farmers says it’s still not enough.
Allocations for Central Valley Project South-of-Delta agricultural use were increased from 65% to 70%, the bureau announced Wednesday. South-of-Delta allocations for municipal and industrial use were raised to 95%.
It’s the third time this year that the bureau has increased the agricultural allocation. It went up from 35% to 55% in March, then to 65% in April.
“The storms experienced in the Central Valley during the past week are unusual this late in the year, bringing the month’s precipitation to over twice its average,” Ernest Conant, the reclamation bureau’s Mid-Pacific regional director, said in a statement. “Snowpack throughout the state is still about 150% of average for this time of year.”
Westlands Says Allocations Aren’t From ‘Objective Formula’
However, officials for Westlands Water District, which administers water to farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties, said the allocation still doesn’t add up.
“Reclamation’s inability to provide South-of-Delta (Central Valley Project) water service contractors with full contract supplies is further evidence of the draconian impact ineffective regulations have had on water supplies for people,” Thomas Birmingham, the water district’s general manager, said in a statement.
“While this is a step in the right direction, I still believe (the reclamation bureau) needs to be doing more, given the high level of precipitation we had this year.” – Rep. TJ Cox
“Decisions that affect CVP water allocations are not the product of some objective formula. Rather, these decisions reflect the exercise of discretion by (reclamation) agency staff, and these decisions affect people and the environment. These decisions affect how much land farmers can plant, how many people will be employed on farms, and how much consumers will pay for food produced by farmers, and the people they employ.”
Rep. TJ Cox, a Fresno Democrat, had a similar reaction to the new allocation.
“While this is a step in the right direction, I still believe (the reclamation bureau) needs to be doing more, given the high level of precipitation we had this year,” Cox said in a statement. “The bureau must explain why we are not yet at 100% of the requested allocation for our South-of-Delta contractors, and we must continue to work together to figure out a long-term plan to address our Valley’s water needs.”
The bureau said it has had “ongoing challenges” in providing higher allocations for contractors because of water-storage limitations, along with restrictions stemming from protections for endangered species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta system.