The Western Agricultural Processors Association held its annual meeting in Monterey. The Association had several speakers including California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade. Wade gave an update on the state’s water outlook which has been relatively bad news for the last five years.
More Water Restrictions?
Wade says on top of challenging water conditions, the coalition was shocked to see two new proposals that look to limit even more of the available water that could be moved south. “Yeah, unusual proposals we are seeing this year from the national fisheries agencies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),” Wade says. “NOAA, we understand, is considering withholding water in Shasta for cold-water temperature control for salmon in the Sacramento river. It goes beyond what the salmon biological opinion currently allows and it’s confounding on what they think they’re going to achieve.”
Wade says this idea would go against recent agreements on water use. “They had an agreement back in March with the Bureau of Reclamation on what flows were going to be allowed,” Wade says. “They are cutting back by 20 percent or more on what water would be available to deliver to farmers. We’re talking about a potential of 400,000 acre feet in lost water supplies and a system being managed almost exclusively for fish when it was built for agricultural supply and urban water users.”
Given the increased precipitation the state saw this winter compared to last year, Wade said they were optimistic about an increase of low allocation predictions that some growers received. “South of the Delta Central Valley Project, allocations are currently at five percent,” Wade says. “With the relatively wet weather we got this year and a full Shasta and Oroville reservoir, we thought there would be sufficient water in the system to meet all those needs and bump that five percent up to ten. As it stands now with these proposals, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.”