Friday, March 1, 2013

Dry Weather Translates to Disappointing Water Allocation for the Valley's Growers

 As we wrapped up February, the state’s water watchers officially declared the past two months as the driest in California history.
State surveyors found the Sierra snowpack has gone down.
                               - Department of Water Resources photo
It was last Thursday when state Water Resources surveyors trekked into the Sierra snow country and measured the winter snowpack at 29 inches – down from 4 feet just a month earlier. The snowpack is 70 percent of average for this time of year.

At the same time, the Bureau of Reclamation delivered its much-anticipated initial water supply allocation for Central Valley Project agricultural contractors for 2013. As we expected, the south-of-the-Delta water allocation came in at a disappointing 25 percent. Time to start doing a rain dance.

So here’s what the Bureau had to say: “The 2013 water year is unfolding in a unique way. Reclamation began water year  2013 (October 1, 2012, to September 30, 2013) with 6.9 million acre-feet of carryover storage in six key Central Valley Project reservoirs, which is 98 percent of the 15-year average for October 1.

Storms in late November and December resulted in above-average snowpack conditions in Northern California and contributed to above-average storage in Shasta and Folsom Reservoirs; however, the San Joaquin River watershed did not fare as well. This mixed start to the water year was then followed by one of the driest combined Januarys and Februarys on record, leading to what has become a challenging water year.

In addition, water supplies from the state and federal pumps in the south Delta have been reduced significantly this year to protect delta smelt, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
 “While we continue to hope for additional precipitation during the remainder of the rainy season, we are also continuing to work with our federal, state and local partners to improve this year’s supply and to find a comprehensive, long-term solution that will achieve the dual goals of a reliable water supply for California and a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem that supports the state’s economy,” stated Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murrillo.

On another water front, the deadline is nearing for irrigated cropland farmers in Fresno County to apply for some of the $1 million in available grant funds aimed at improving water quality in the region. The grants are offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in conjunction with the Kings River Conservation District. The goal is for farmers to address water quality on cropland by reducing pesticides and other materials that go into the waterways and groundwater. Part of the idea is to install more efficient irrigation systems or adopt irrigation water management practices.
You need to get your applications in by the end of the day on Friday, March 15. For more information, visit the NRCS Fresno Service Center at 4625 W. Jennifer Ave., Suite 125, Fresno, or call (559) 276-7494. It’s a good opportunity to get some money to try out some innovative irrigation techniques.

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