The State Department of Water Resources says it will cut water deliveries to 29 agencies that get water from the State Water Project.
Department Director Mark Cowin says it’s the first time in the 54 year history of the water delivery system that no water will be allocated. Earlier this year it projected that only 5 percent of water requests of the system would be filled, but often more water is delivered when winter storms develop.
This year the state’s two large reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, are at only 36 percent of capacity. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Folsom Reservoir is even worse at 17 percent of capacity. Water will still be allocated to users if health and safety are affected or if fire fighting efforts are jeopardized. There’s little chance that future storms will allow storage to catch up.
“The state would have to experience heavy rainfall or snowfall every other day through May in order to just get us back to average precipitation levels,” said Cowin.
Cowin said water needs to preserved so that salt water can be flushed from the Delta during the dry months. Salt water intrusions would cause even greater hardship than the delivery cutbacks.
“That would result in ruined water supplies for users both in the Delta and south of the Delta and have major environmental impacts,” said Cowin.
Those who need water for residential use, preserving fish and wildlife habitat, and agriculture will not get all they want or need so that they can get at least some water in the future.
The urban and agricultural customers of the system generally have other sources of water like wells or their own reservoirs so the effects will be mixed. The State Water Resources Control Board says it will use emergency powers to restrict water use from streams and rivers to those who have historical claims on water sources. But as many as 5,800 users may not be allowed to draw water.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife restricted fishing on several rivers and the Fish and Game Commission next week will determine if fishing on the lower American River will be banned.