Exceptionally Dry Conditions Prompt Further Drought Action

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Water

After a historically dry January and February, officials are taking further drought action. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has reduced allocations for the State Water Project to five percent of requested supplies for 2022. Initial water allocations were for 15 percent after the calendar year began on the heels of a wet December. The statewide Sierra snowpack currently sits at 55 percent of normal, while statewide reservoir levels sit at approximately 70 percent of average.

Drought Action

“While we had hoped for more rain and snow, DWR has been preparing for a third consecutive year of drought since October,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a press release. “We are continuing with a series of actions to balance the needs of endangered species, water supply conservation, and water deliveries for millions of Californians.”

Forecasts are not projecting any significant rainfall coming to the state in the month of March. State and federal officials are advising residents to prepare for a third year of ongoing extreme dry conditions. DWR will be making another assessment for allocations after the next snow survey on April 1. DWR is also taking other drought action with federal partners.

The Bureau of Reclamation and DWR have filed another Temporary Urgency Change Petition with the State Water Resources Control Board. A similar petition had been filed earlier in the water year and subsequently withdrawn after significant rainfall in the month of December. The petition seeks to temporarily modify water rights and usage between April 1 and June 30. More water will be kept in Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom reservoirs instead of being released into the Delta.

“Reclamation and DWR, along with the federal and state fish agencies, have been coordinating throughout the winter to address increasingly challenging hydrologic conditions for environmental flows and water supply,” Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant said in a news release. “We all recognize what a difficult year this is going to be for everyone. It’s definitely another roll-up-your-sleeves, all-hands-on-deck water year.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West