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Water
Despite Above Average Snowpack, Fed Agency Promises Valley Farmers Only 35% of Water
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
March 22, 2024

The Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that farmers south of the Delta will get 35% of their contracted water instead of 15%. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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The Bureau of Reclamation, which controls water allocations through the Central Valley Project, didn’t wait for the new round of storms to start arriving this weekend to announce that allocations for farmers south of the Delta and water service operators will be 35% of their contracted amount instead of 15% as previously announced.

But two Valley congressmen and a Valley water authority executive said Friday that 35% isn’t nearly enough and is hamstringing farmers, ranchers, and dairymen who are in the throes of planning for their operations this year based on how much water they think will be available to them.

In years with above-average snowpacks and rain totals, there should be plenty of water available for the Bureau of Reclamation to release water from storage behind dams in California’s complicated water supply system to meet the needs of all users, Reps. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and David Valadao, R-Hanford, said in news releases.

Costa called the new allocation percentage “disappointing” and said he would continue to work with federal and state water leaders to boost allocations while also pushing for new infrastructure investments to increase water storage in California.

“These low allocations pose challenges for farmers, ranchers, and dairymen and women who are making decisions now on planning their operations that put food on America’s dinner table each night,” he said.

Valadao, who had urged the bureau to boost allocations in a speech on the House floor Friday morning, said later that the higher allocations were “welcome news.”

“But they don’t go far enough to help our CVP contractors who have received well below their contracted supply for years,” he said. “Recent storms and a strong snowpack should give Reclamation the flexibility to get Central Valley users the water they contract and pay for.”

‘Regulatory Constraints’ Pose Limits on Water

Bureau of Reclamation regional director Karl Stock said Friday in a news release that the lower allocation announced in February came after a below-average month of precipitation in January, but storms throughout February have improved the hydrological conditions “particularly for Northern California.”

However, “while the series of storms in Northern California improved the water supply outlook, a number of factors, particularly anticipated regulatory constraints throughout the spring, continue to limit the water supply allocation for south-of-Delta agriculture,” Stock said.

The bureau is reserving approximately 83,000 acre-feet of water currently in San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos to contribute to a drought reserve pool for a south-of-the-Delta drought plan, Stock said.

Federico Barajas, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, noted in a news release that water operations are being impacted now for the protection of steelhead trout, for which the benefit is uncertain.

“Simply put, we must do better — we must strike a better balance in scientifically supported decision-making to adaptively manage California’s water system, which supports drinking water for more than 30 million people, the world’s fifth largest economy, and one of Earth’s most fertile and productive food producing regions,” he said.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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