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Valley Growers Hope for More Rain & Snow to Boost Irrigation Supplies
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 2 months ago on
February 23, 2024

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Westlands Water District receives an initial CVP water allocation of 15%.

Friant Division gets an initial 60% allocation.

Reclamation officials say recent storms could result in higher allocations in March.


This is the time of year when residents in California’s water-challenged cities and farmers keep their fingers crossed that more rain and snow are on the way.

That’s because the state’s snowpack typically peaks in April, providing an important indication of how much water will flow throughout the summer.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced its initial 2024 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project water users. Those allocations are based on an estimate of water available for delivery and reflect current reservoir storage, precipitation, and Sierra snowpack.

“The wet hydrologic conditions we experienced during the 2023 water year left most of our reservoirs in good shape as we progressed to the 2024 water year,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Karl Stock in a news release.

“Precipitation totals this water year started off slowly, evidenced by the fact we were well below average at the time of the February 1 water supply forecast. Since that time, several storms have boosted the Sierra Nevada snowpack, bringing us to near-normal conditions for Northern California.

“It is likely we will see the water supply benefits from these storms in the March 1 forecast update. At the same time, we must be prepared for and respond accordingly to the possible re-emergence of drier conditions.”

15% Allocations for Westlands, San Luis & Delta-Mendota

As is often the case with the CVP, the initial allocations provided a mix of relief, frustration, and hope over how much water will flow this year.

Westlands Water District, for example, received a 15% allocation of its contracted amount, as did San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

“We recognize mother nature is unpredictable and forecasting water allocation is hard work and challenging. We appreciate the staff at Reclamation for their efforts to deliver water — a critical resource — to our family farmers so they can grow the produce that nourishes not just our region, but beyond,” said Westlands General Manager Allison Febbo.

“To be resilient to changes in climate and to be prepared for future drought conditions, the district has been focused on implementing solutions like groundwater recharge to replenish our aquifers and working with our farmers to explore alternative use for fallowed land like solar.”

Said Federico Barajas, executive director of San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority: “It’s crucial for us to understand that Reclamation’s initial allocation of 15% for authority irrigation water service and repayment member agencies is based on the February 1st forecast and does not reflect recent storm events.

“Many expected the initial allocation to be higher, particularly given current reservoir conditions. This low initial allocation is particularly challenging for agricultural producers, who are reliant on these projections for planning crops to grow during the year and for acquiring the financing necessary to support food production.”

60% Allocation for Friant Division

Other Valley irrigation districts with stronger water rights fared significantly better with their initial allocations.

The Exchange Contractors, for example, received 100%, and the Friant Division was allocated 60%.

The graphic below provides the initial allocations for CVP contractors throughout the system.

 

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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