Spring Storms Boost CVP Water Allocation

Sacramento, CA (May 19, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an updated, increased water supply allocation of 20% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). The initial allocation had been set at 15%.

Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, issued the following statement:

“During these unprecedented times, we must remember that reliable water supplies are the foundation on which community and economic health is built.

This year’s lack of rain and snowpack has challenged Reclamation’s ability to meet the multiple needs for water deliveries from the Central Valley Project – agricultural water supply, water for ecosystems and threatened species, and water for California’s urban populations.

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority appreciates Reclamation’s ability to carefully strike a balance, given the challenging conditions. The reliability and quantity of surface water deliveries directly impacts the amount of groundwater that is used to produce the food we eat and the water we drink.

Today’s announcement of a water allocation increase has positive benefits for California communities and its environment and reduces the reliance on groundwater aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley.”

BBID is a member agency of the SLDMWA, which serves 28 member public agencies, 25 of which contract with Reclamation for water supply from the CVP.

In a news release, Reclamation credited spring storms for the increased allocation.

“Thanks to April precipitation showing a sizeable water supply improvement for the American River watershed, Reclamation is pleased to announce this increased allocation for CVP water contractors south-of-the Delta,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Ernest Conant. “Even with the recent gains in water supply, the year as a whole has still been relatively dry. Reclamation will continue to monitor conditions and adjust accordingly. We urge our contractors to continue to exercise conservative use of the resource.”

Further water supply updates are posted at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp-water/index.html. 

Dry Weather Leads to Low Water Allocation

Sacramento, CA (February 25, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an initial water supply allocation of 15% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

After a promising start to winter, dry conditions have returned across California. It has rained more in February in Death Valley than in Sacramento. The statewide snowpack is below average, and the long-range forecast indicates the lack of rain and snowfall may continue.

This image released by the National Weather Service, illustrates the dramatic difference between this year and last year’s snowpack.

“While we certainly wish Reclamation was able to issue a higher allocation, we recognize they must be responsive to our state’s current conditions,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The looming threat of the next drought underscores the need for adaptative water management. Implementing the new biological opinions abandons an outdated, restrictive approach in favor of real-time, cutting-edge science to best meet the needs of cities, farms and the environment.”

For the first time in a decade, updated biological opinions were issued last week. Those federal rules govern water use through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Had those biological opinions been in place last year, it is estimated that the projects would have been able to save more than one-million acre-feet of additional water. That would be tremendously valuable in any year, but especially in a dry one like 2020. At a 15% allocation, growers in BBID’s CVP service area will have a baseline water supply of just 0.51 acre-feet of water per acre – down from 3.4 acre-feet per acre with a full allocation.

“This initial allocation also underlines the need for investment in our water systems, including increasing storage to save more water during wet years for use during dry ones; and more conveyance to move water more flexibly, ensuring reliability in the face of increasingly unpredictable, extreme weather patterns.”

Growers Faced with Low Water Allocation Despite Plentiful Winter Storms

Byron, CA (February 20, 2019) – BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement, after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on Wednesday issued an initial 35% allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“Reclamation’s initial allocation tells an all-too-familiar story. Despite above-average water supplies, CVP water deliveries are being restricted by outdated science and failed regulations, forcing growers to make do with less water.

This month, California has seen 18 trillion gallons of precipitation – enough to fill Lake Shasta 12 times. Our snowpack is well above normal. Runoff into many of the state’s main reservoirs this year is projected to be as much as 1.1 million-acre-feet higherthan at this time in 2012. Mother Nature is doing her part.

These overly conservative, low initial allocations unfairly burden the District’s growers and ranchers. They struggle to make informed planning decisions in the face of an uncertain water supply. BBID continues to work for constructive, collaborative reviews of existing regulations, and to ensure that the latest science is put to use for water allocations that impact BBID and the entire state.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: State Water Board Bay-Delta Plan Prioritizes Fish & Wildlife Over Cities & Farms

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) sent the following letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), urging the SWRCB to reconsider key components of its Bay-Delta Plan Update for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta. The SWRCB’s plan calls for 40% of unimpaired flows, which will result in significant reductions in available water.

The Bureau’s letter says, in part: “…The Board amendments essentially elevate the [New Melones] Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”

The full letter, as well as the Bureau’s technical comments, are below:

BOR_Letter_Bay_Delta_Plan

Water Allocation Remains Low, Despite Full Reservoirs

Byron, CA (May 28, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement, after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) crept up the water supply allocation – from 40% to 45% – for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“The Bureau’s latest allocation increase amounts to a drop in the bucket for BBID’s farmers, who should have been able to count on a much more robust supply in a year like this. The statewide average for CVP reservoirs is more than 100 percent of normal, just one year removed from the wettest year on record.

The still-low allocation – which began at 20% and has gradually increased to 45% – shows that the greatest challenge to reliable CVP water deliveries is our regulatory climate, not Mother Nature.

We join our partners at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) in calling for change. Overly conservative and restrictive CVP operations create unnecessary hardships not just for farmers, but for the entire state. If the federal government can’t supply requisite deliveries even with abundant supplies, then clearly, the system is broken.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

Decision to Increase Growers’ Water Supply Too Little, Too Late

Byron, CA (April 20, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced an increased water supply allocation – from 20% to 40% – for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“Once again, the USBR is taking a far too conservative approach. Nearly every reservoir across California is at, or well above, historical average. Shasta Lake is at 108% of normal. San Luis Reservoir is at 100% of normal. If that doesn’t merit an allocation for BBID’s CVP growers greater than 40%, then what will?”

“The USBR’s decision to delay this announcement to this point – when growing season is well underway – means that it will be difficult for farmers to take full advantage of the increased water availability. Many planting decisions have already been made based upon a smaller supply. Simply put: the Central Valley Project is broken and we need to make changes to restore its delivery capabilities – especially when there’s more than enough water to go around.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

UPDATE: In Historically Wet Year, Farmers to Receive Full Water Supply

Byron, CA (April 11, 2017) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement: 

“For the first time in more than a decade, farmers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Central Valley Project (CVP) service area will rightfully enjoy a full water supply. Today’s updated allocation announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, increasing the south-of-Delta CVP allocation from 65% to 100%, is long-awaited news for our growers. The decision is certainly appropriate in the wake of a historically wet winter that brought near-record rainfall and snow. BBID also applauds the Bureau for allowing unused water from this year’s allocation, to be stored and used next year.”

“Unfortunately, the announcement may have come too late. Many planting decisions have already been made, based on a lesser – and now, outdated – water supply. The delay highlights the need for change. BBID remains committed to working with our local, state and federal partners to seek solutions for a water system that falls short for California’s cities, its agricultural community and its environment.”

Delayed Decision Proves System is Broken, Prolongs Regulatory Drought

Byron, CA (March 23, 2017) – Farmers left waiting in limbo to learn how much water they would receive from the Central Valley Project (CVP) finally have their answer – and it is stunningly disappointing.

On Wednesday, after weeks of inexplicable delays that hamstrung farmers at the outset of the growing season, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finally announced a mere 65% allocation for South-of-Delta CVP contractors, including Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). The CVP, one of the state’s largest infrastructure projects, is managed by the federal government and delivers water to the Central Valley.

“If there was ever a year for a full, 100% allocation, this is it,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “This is the wettest year ever in California. The state has double the water it normally has this time of year. Our reservoirs are literally overflowing. Our snowpack is at more than 150% of normal. This delayed decision extends our regulatory drought and shows how badly broken California’s water system is.”

Instead of utilizing what should be abundant water supplies to grow farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to feed California and the nation, growers in BBID’s CVP service area will yet again face shortages. The lack of a timely decision was damaging enough. Without knowing how much water is available, farmers can’t make critical decisions about how many acres to plant, or how many people to hire. The 65% allocation adds insult to injury, and may reduce how much local produce is available for California’s families.

Meanwhile, water that could be used in cities and on farms, or to recharge the state’s taxed groundwater flows into the ocean, in the name of failed environmental policies. Federal fisheries are hoarding water to keep river temperatures at arbitrary levels to protect fish – with no concrete improvements. These policies aren’t good for California’s communities, its farms or even its environment.

“The District is more committed than ever to doing whatever necessary to fix the system,” Gilmore added. “We must finally build new infrastructure to store more water in wet years. We must pursue constructive regulatory solutions to properly divvy water between the state’s cities, its agriculture community and the environment. That’s the best – and only – way to insulate against future droughts and secure long-term water reliability for not only our growers, but the entire state.”