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California Drops State Water Allocation to Zero

Posted by feww on February 1, 2014



Severe Drought Prompts Worst-Ever Water Supply Forecast for California

“Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project,” said the director of California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

DWR is securing what little water remains in the state’s reservoirs in response to the worsening drought and strong likelihood of more severe water shortages in the coming months.

The agency announced Friday that they took actions to conserve the state’s dwindling resources, as a result of which, “everyone—farmers, fish, and people in our cities and towns —will get less water.”

“This historic announcement reflects the severity of California’s drought. After two previous dry years, 2014 is shaping up as the driest in state history,” said DWR.

  • On Thursday, Sierra snow survey found the snowpack’s statewide water content was only 12 percent of average for this time of year.
  • Water levels in key reservoirs now are lower than at this time in 1977, one of the two previous driest water years on record.
    • Lake Oroville in Butte County, the principal SWP reservoir, is at 36 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (55 percent of its historical average for the date).
    • Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is also at 36 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity (54 percent of average for the date).
    • San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and CVP, is just 30 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity (39 percent of average for the date).

calif resv conds
California Current Reservoir Conditions. Source: DWR

Zero Allocation

DWR has never before announced a zero allocation in the 54-year history of the State Water Project to all 29 public water agencies that buy from the SWP. These deliveries help supply water to 25 million Californians and roughly 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

The agency forecast in late December that it would be able to deliver only 5 percent of about 4 million acre-feet of State Water Project water requested by the 29 public water agencies that purchase water from the project. They are located in Northern California, the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California.

The 5 percent projected allocation has now reduced to zero.

calif avg precip
Statewide Average Precipitation – by water year. Source DWR.

precip ranking calif
Precipitation Rankings by Climate Region: January – December 2013. Source: DWR

California is currently experiencing its worst drought on record. In 2013 California experienced its driest year since records began 120 years ago.

  • Many California reservoirs are at their lowest levels in years.
  • The snow cover is less than 20 percent of the normal at this time of year.
  • Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir is holding just over a third of its full capacity,  down from the normal of more than a half at this time of year, according to officials.

‘Extreme’ and ‘Exceptional Drought’ levels are plaguing California, threatening at least 17 communities with water famine.

Gov. Brown Declared Drought State of Emergency earlier this month amid worst dry conditions in 119 years

Brown had earlier described the drought as being “really serious,” adding that 2014 could be California’s third consecutive dry year. “In many ways it’s a mega-drought.”

calif drought 28jan2014
California Drought Map. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

California Drought Conditions

“Drought and relatively mild temperatures continue to prevail across the state. In the northwestern part of California, a 1-category degradation from severe to extreme drought (D2 to D3) was made across Humboldt and Trinity Counties. The Central Sierra Snow Lab near the Donner Summit reports 8 inches of snow on the ground, the lowest for this time in January since at least 1946. In the general vicinity of Monterey to Bakersfield, conditions warranted a 1-category downgrade, from extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4). A few of the impacts within the D4 area include fallowing of land, wells running dry, municipalities considering drilling deeper wells, and little to no rangeland grasses for cattle to graze on, prompting significant livestock sell off.” —US Drought Monitor

Drought Comparison Table

drought comparison table - Calif
California Drought Comparison Table (Percent Area). Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Related Links

FIRE-EARTH 2009 Forecast: Desertification of California in the Near Future Is Almost a Certainty

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