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Environment

Federal water allocation of 0% to 15% too skimpy, contractors say

A river with tree-lined banks viewed from the top of a dam.
Lois Henry
/
SJV Water
The San Joaquin River stretches out below Friant Dam in this Nov. 2018 photo.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced its 2022 water allocations for the Central Valley Project (CVP) on Wednesday. The CVP is a more than 400-mile network of federal canals and dams that transport water to farms and towns throughout the valley.

CVP contractors south of the Delta will receive no water, except for a couple specific agencies.

The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors have a unique contract with the Bureau that dates back to the 1930s when the CVP was built. Those contractors have a strong entitlement to water and will receive 650,000 acre feet, which is the “critical year” amount specified in their contract.

Friant Division contractors, which receive water from Millerton Lake via the Madera and Friant-Kern canals, get a 15% allocation of 800,000 acre feet, which comes out to about 120,000 acre feet. That water is for “Class 1” contractors. Class 2 contractors will get no water.

“Friant Water Authority believes there is ample justification for an allocation higher than 15%,” wrote a spokesperson for the authority in a press release on Wednesday. “Not allocating water that is clearly available will only exacerbate an unnecessary rush to pump groundwater, causing additional overdraft.”

Friant staff think there is about 240,000 acre feet of additional water in the upper San Joaquin watershed, according to the press release.

“This is the fourth time in the last decade the south-of-Delta irrigation contractors have received a 0% allocation,” wrote a spokesperson for Westlands Water District in a press release on Wednesday. “Within Westlands, the continued drought conditions in 2021 resulted in over 200,000 acres fallowed, countless lost jobs, and thousands of acres of food unharvested. The circumstances in 2021 and those facing us in 2022 demonstrate the need to invest in infrastructure to better manage the State’s water resources.”

Westlands is one of the largest water districts and ecompasses more than 600,000 acres on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The State Water Project (SWP) afforded a bit more water to its contractors when the state’s Department of Water Resources increased its allocation to 15% across the board in January. The SWP is a network of canals, dams, and reservoirs that run more than 700 miles throughout California and carry water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.

Initially, the allocation for the SWP was 0% but after some of the early winter storms the allocation was increased to 15% on January 20.

The Bureau and DWR typically release new allocation amounts toward the end of March.

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SJV Water is a nonprofit, independent online news publication covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Lois Henry is the CEO/Editor of SJV Water. She can be reached at lois.henry@sjvwater.org. The website is www.sjvwater.org