The Department of Water Resources (DWR) began the month with a disappointing initial water allocation for the State Water Project (SWP). Due to a fairly slow start to the 2022 water year and the current condition of water storage, expectations were for a conservative allocation. DWR has announced a zero percent allocation for SWP contractors.
“What the Department of Water Resources announced in December was unprecedented. They said that there would be zero water allocated. What was interesting in their announcement is they prioritized how they were planning on delivering water,” said Adam Borchard, Director of Government and Public Policy for the California Fresh Fruit Association. “Usually in the past when the state has an announcement like that, initially it’s just a pure numerical number with usually a statement of prognostication about how conditions are anticipated for the hydrologic year. This case was a little bit different.”
The four categories for water prioritization were identified as health and safety needs and Delta salinity control, endangered species, storage, and finally additional supply allocations if water remains available. DWR has indicated that “SWP will not be planning water deliveries through its typical allocation process until the state has a clearer picture of the hydrologic and reservoir conditions going into the spring.” While California has been experiencing a series of storms bringing much-needed rain, it may not be enough to overcome multiple years of dry conditions.
The water allocation reflects the current reservoir levels being exceptionally low and what DWR expects to be a third dry year. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen said that after the dry conditions of 2021, it will take significantly more than a few rainstorms to bring water supplies back into balance.
“It’s put us into a position where you can’t help but have a pessimistic view going into 2022 just because it’s got to be an exceptional water year for us,” Jacobsen noted. “We would need a 140 percent year of average just to get back to what would be considered average because of the deficit that we find ourselves in.”