The Bureau of Reclamation is telling farmers who rely on Central Valley Project water to brace for the worst in 2023.
The Bureau released a statement Monday advising farmers and industrial users “to begin planning for potentially extremely limited water supply conditions.”
“Despite the early storms that California experienced this month, drought conditions continue,” the Bureau said. “Conservative planning efforts will help better manage the limited water resources in the event conditions remain dry and we move into a fourth consecutive drought year.”
Vast Swaths of Farmland Idled
In reaction to the drought and limited water supply, CVP farmers idled land or purchased water from other sources — sometimes paying more than $2,000 an acre-foot this year. According to UC researchers, compared to 2019, land idling in the Central Valley was estimated at 524,000 and 695,000 acres for 2021 and 2022, respectively.
The Central Valley Project is a 400-mile network of dams, reservoirs, canals, hydroelectric power plants, and other facilities. It supplies water to more than 250 contractors in 29 of California’s 58 counties.
In years with average rainfall and snowpack, the CVP delivers about 5 million acre-feet of water for farms; 600,000 acre-feet of water for municipal and industrial uses; and water for wildlife refuges and maintaining water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Shasta Reservoir Is at Just 31% of Capacity
Amid the state’s historic drought, the CVP began the 2023 water year on Oct. 1 with reservoirs near historic lows. For example, Shasta Reservoir, which is the state’s largest reservoir and the CVP’s cornerstone, is now at 31% capacity.
“If drought conditions extend into 2023, Reclamation will find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to meet all the competing needs of the Central Valley Project without beginning the implementation of additional and more severe water conservation actions,” the Bureau said.
You can check on the current water levels of major California reservoirs at this link.