The state’s water chief is ordering water deliveries to customers south of the Delta to be cut from 5% to 0% for the first time in their history.
The Department of Water Resources Friday announced they would take the rare step to conserve California’s current water resources.
Customers of the State Water Project will get no deliveries in 2014 if the dry weather pattern continues. Deliveries to agricultural districts in the Sacramento Valley may be cut 50%. The DWR points out that nearly all the areas getting water from the SWP also get water from other sources, like groundwater or local reservoirs.
The DWR’s cutbacks are a direct result of the drought emergency signed by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this month.
The State Water Board says they will allow higher water flows through the Delta to keep salt put to protect wildlife and farmers, and cut exports.
The historic step of cutting all water deliveries comes after two dry years, and a really dry 2013-2014 season so far. According to the DWR, water storage at key reservoirs around the state are now lower than at this of year in 1977, the last serious drought situation.
Water rights holders will get low priority except for health concerns. “As Governor Brown has directed, we will work closely with our state, federal and local partners to meet health and safety needs and deliver what water is available to critically dry areas,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said.
The board does expect protests from cities, farmers, wildlife groups and others.
Lonnie Wong contributed to this report