The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) recently announced adjustments to water operations related to the Central Valley Project (CVP). After an exceptionally dry start to 2022, Reclamation has updated CVP allocations for municipal and industrial water service contractors. Initial CVP water supply allocations called for a 25 percent allocation for municipal and industrial water service contractors south-of-delta. As of April 1, those contactors have been reduced to Public Health and Safety. Limited northern California water storage had already resulted in a Public Health and Safety allocation for north-of-Delta municipal and industrial contractors.
Along with updates to CVP allocations, Reclamation has also adjusted operations of Friant Dam. Releases into the San Joaquin River began on April 1 to help meet contractual obligations for San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Senior water rights of San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors provide for water supplies primarily coming from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta via the Delta-Mendota Canal. Similar to what occurred in relation to drought conditions in 2014 and 2015, releases from Friant Dam will take place to supplement water deliveries.
Friant Water Authority (FWA) has raised concerns about the recent action. FWA noted that water released would have otherwise been available for delivery to Friant Division contractors in communities stretching from Madera to Kern counties. The impact of the adjusted operations of Friant Dam are believed to have a “staggering” impact on communities and ecosystems.
“There is an ongoing and unresolved legal dispute over Reclamation’s interpretation of its specific obligations to the Exchange Contractors and the Friant Contractors believe more water is being taken away than is required under the Federal government’s contracts,” FWA said in a news release. “And although 2022 is a dry year, poorly designed regulations meant to protect Delta-dependent fish species and our collective inaction to improve water infrastructure in the Central Valley for more than a generation are the underlying problems preventing enough water from being moved through the Delta.”