Historically Dry Conditions Impact Planned State Water Project Deliveries

Ryan Endean, Public Affairs, Department of Water Resources, [email protected], Announcements, Resource Recovery

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently announced it must reduce the State Water Project allocation to 5 percent of requested supplies for 2022. DWR previously set the allocation at 15 percent but a historically dry January and February, with no significant storms forecast for March, requires a reduction in the allocation to conserve available water supply.

In addition to the 5 percent allocation, DWR will also provide any unmet critical health and safety needs of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive State Water Project supplies.

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions. That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “While we had hoped for more rain and snow, DWR has been preparing for a third consecutive year of drought since October. 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.”

In a letter to the State Water Contractors earlier this month, DWR Director Nemeth stressed the need for proactive conservation measures now to prepare for ongoing extreme dry conditions.

As the state prepares for a third dry year, DWR will preserve as much storage as possible in Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir. Water releases from Lake Oroville will be prioritized to maintain Delta water quality, protect endangered species, and meet senior water right needs.

DWR, along with its federal partners at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, will submit a revised application for a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) for operations from April 1 to June 30. The petition will seek flexibility for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to release less water into the Delta through June 2022 to conserve limited stored water in Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs. DWR and Reclamation had previously submitted a TUCP application for earlier in the year. However, December storms made that application unnecessary, and it was withdrawn. This new application is necessary due to dramatically changing conditions and covers modified dates and operational requests.

Additionally, DWR is planning to refill the notch in the Emergency Drought Salinity Barrier in the Delta. Crews created a notch in the barrier in January to allow for fish passage and boat traffic during the winter. The barrier reduces the amount of saltwater intrusion into the Delta, allowing for reduced flows from upstream reservoirs to conserve water supply. The barrier is expected to remain in place until November 30, 2022.

While these necessary actions will help extend the state’s existing water supply, all Californians should do their part now to conserve as much water as possible to make it last. Governor Newsom has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent with simple measures to protect water reserves. The October 2021 emergency proclamation expanded the drought emergency statewide and authorized the State Water Board to ban wasteful water uses, boosting conservation efforts. The State Water Board provides monthly updates on California’s water conservation efforts on their website. Californians can learn more about how to save water inside and outside the home at www.saveourwater.com.

The State is also taking action to support communities facing water supply challenges due to the ongoing drought. DWR is providing direct community assistance for drought relief projects and to communities who need it most to address water supply challenges and help build local resilience. To date, DWR has awarded more than $196 million in drought relief funding to communities throughout the state. DWR will announce the next round of grant awards from the Urban and Multibenefit Drought Relief Program which assists communities facing the contamination or loss of their water supplies due to drought, as well as address immediate drought impacts on human health and safety and protect fish and wildlife resources.

Californians can now access current water conditions in real time at California Water Watch, a new website launched by DWR. This website will help Californians see their local hydrological conditions, forecasts, and water conditions down to their address or their local watershed. The site presents data from a variety of sources and allows the public to obtain a quick snapshot of local and statewide water conditions.

Additional Resources

Latest on California’s Drought Response 
Current Statewide Reservoir Conditions 
Save Our Water: Tips to Conserve Water During a Drought 

Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, has issued the following statement on the California Department of Water Resources’ announcement to decrease the State Water Project allocation to 5 percent.

“California is seeing drought conditions like we’ve never seen before – simply put, nature has changed faster than anything we expected. Today’s announcement by the state is another stark indicator of our increasingly stressed water supply and the gravity of the situation we are facing. On average, 30 percent of the water we use in Southern California comes from the State Water Project. But through three years of low allocations, we’re getting a fraction of what we used to receive – lower deliveries than any time in history.

“Unfortunately, so far the level of conservation we’re seeing from the public is not matching the severity of these conditions. We all need to take this drought more seriously and significantly step up our water-saving efforts to help preserve our dropping storage levels and ensure we have the water we need into the summer and fall. Some communities are particularly reliant on SWP supplies, including parts of Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. The residents and businesses in these communities especially need to reduce their water use immediately.

“While Metropolitan and its member agencies are making new supply investments that will help in future droughts, we need greater conservation now to get through these historic conditions. “We also need the partnership of the state and the federal government to create climate resilient local water supplies and storage to adapt to the changing climate.”