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No Fed Project Water For Some California Farmers

U.S Bureau of Reclamation / Courtesy

The New Melones Dam in California is one of 20 dams and reservoirs supplying water for the Central Valley Project operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As of April 1, 2016, the dam was at 26 percent of capacity.

U.S Bureau of Reclamation / Courtesy

Federal officials say farmers in Northern California can expect to receive all of their requested water deliveries this year, while those to the south of the Delta will likely receive a fraction. 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced its initial water allocation plan Friday. 

The federal agency says a nearly-average amount of rain and snow fell this year. 

But the heaviest precipitation fell in northern California, and farmers north of the Delta will receive their full requested allocation. 

Many farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, from Stockton south to Bakersfield, will only receive 5 percent of the Central Valley Project water. But San Joaquin River Exchange and Settlement Contractors are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 

"While we are on track for near-average precipitation season this year, the ongoing and residual impacts of the multi-year drought continue," says Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo. "The impacts this summer will be greatest on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and some areas served by New Melones Reservoir." 

Gayle Holman, with the Westlands Water District, says in a statement that "the allocation is grossly inadequate and it shows how California's water delivery system is broken." 

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The federal agency says it determines the allocation of CVP water for agricultural, environmental, and municipal and industrial purposes "based upon many factors including hydrologic conditions, reservoir storage levels, water quality requirements, relative priority of water rights, contractual obligations, and endangered species protection measures." 

The Bureau of Reclamation says the initial CVP allocation "is also based on conservative assumptions regarding Delta operations over the next couple of months; however, should conditions improve, CVP supplies could also improve, with increased supplies to Reclamation contractors in the hard-hit San Joaquin Valley."

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The California Department of Water Resources April 1 update shows the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack (from 94 reporting stations) is 24.2 inches or 86 percent of average.

The snowpack is 95 percent of average in the north and 73 percent of average in the southern Sierra. The differences reflect the storm track that favored northern California over the 2015-16 winter.

Four dry years have taken a toll on groundwater and reservoir storage in California. 

And one average or even above-average winter, along with a strong El Niño, wasn't expected to end the historic drought, now in its fifth year. 

The 2016 Initial Allocations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

North-of-Delta Contractors 

  • Agricultural water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 
  • M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 
  • Sacramento River Settlement Contractors are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 

In-Delta 

  • The Contra Costa Water District, which receives water directly from the Delta, is allocated 100 percent of its contract supply. 

South-of-Delta Contractors 

  • Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 5 percent of their contract supply. 
  • M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 55 percent of their historic use. 
  • San Joaquin River Exchange and Settlement Contractors are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 

Wildlife Refuges 

  • Wildlife refuges (Level 2) North- and South-of-Delta are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply. 

Friant Division Contractors 

  • Pursuant to Reclamation’s March 18 notification to Friant Division contractors and based upon Millerton Lake storage and current and forecasted hydrologic conditions in the Upper San Joaquin River Basin, the Friant Division allocation is 30 percent of Class 1 supplies. 
  • In addition, an Uncontrolled Season supply of 100,000 acre-feet and Unreleased Restoration Flow supply related to the San Joaquin River Restoration Program of 85,000 acre-feet are being made available as blocks that need to be scheduled and delivered by May 1 and May 15 respectively to avert flood management concerns. 

Eastside Water Service Contractors 

  • Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District) will receive 0 percent of their contract supply due to a lack of available CVP supplies from New Melones Reservoir. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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