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Central Valley Project Reservoirs Lowest Since 2009

Nov 11, 2013

Friant Dam, part of the Central Valley Project on the San Joaquin River near Fresno
Credit State Department of Water Resources

Six key reservoirs of the federal Central Valley Project are at the lowest levels since 2009, when the state was officially in a drought. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some farmers are expecting zero-percent water allocations in 2014.

Dry weather has CVP reservoirs holding just 5.1 million acre feet of water. The 15 year average for this time of year is seven million acre feet. Some farmers are worried that water allocations will be zero-percent. Chris Scheuring with the California Farm Bureau Federation says if that’s the case, leaving fields unplanted won’t be the only problem.

"We’re also probably talking about a further exacerbation of groundwater problems, folks in a pinch have to turn to groundwater and turn on their pumps when their ditches are dry. And we’re already in a bad situation in that regard with respect to over-drafted aquifer in certain spots," says Scheuring.

The CVP provides water for three million acres of farmland in the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley and central coast, as well as millions of urban users. 

Gayle Holman with the Westlands Water District says it’s telling farmers to be prepared for zero-percent allocations in 2014.

“We are looking at over 200,000 to 250,000 acres probably going unplanted, which means a huge loss of economic value, revenue that would come into not only the region but the state,” says Holman.

The US Bureau of Reclamation will announce preliminary allocations in late January.