Drought’s Impact: 0% Friant Supply
Bureau of Reclamation officials’ first 2014 Friant Division supply declaration told Friant water users the bad news they had been expecting – that there currently is no Central Valley Project water to declare.
Fourteen drought months with little to no rain and mountain snow, capped by none at all through the peak of Central California’s “wet” season, set the stage for a potentially catastrophic record dry year.
Reclamation on February 21 took the rare step of giving a “zero” to Friant’s Class 1 and Class 2 water supplies to be delivered in the coming year through the Friant-Kern and Madera canals.
Friant’s CVP contractors and the Friant Water Authority received the news during a somber conference call. At the same time, Reclamation announced western San Joaquin Valley CVP contractors served by the San Luis Unit also can expect to receive no water.
WATER FOR SMALL CITIES
Four small communities utilizing Class 1 Friant contracts in depending on Friant-Kern Canal were previously told by Reclamation they will share in 4,000 acre-feet of emergency “health and safety” and hardship water.
That water is part of some 12,500 acre-feet of supply created when interim San Joaquin River Restoration Program flows were suspended earlier in February and is being banked for Reclamation by the Fresno Irrigation District.
It will be utilized by exchange as needed to supply users in Orange Cove, Lindsay, Strathmore and Terra Bella.
Although Friant’s municipal users share equally in allocation availability (and thus have no Class 1 water available), the emergency deliveries will represent approximately half of the four communities’ CVP municipal supplies.
Friant’s largest CVP municipal user, the City of Fresno, has a Class 1 contract for 60,000 acre-feet but will receive no Friant water. The city has adequate alternative supply sources from the Kings River and groundwater.
Bureau officials have indicated they will make available a limited amount of carryover water now stored in Millerton Lake by some Friant agricultural contractors and may have a very small additional amount of water available from the unused interim Restoration Flow supply.
“Unless additional significant amounts of late season rain and snow occurs, what little surface water that becomes available will only be a tiny fraction of what is needed to irrigate the Friant Division’s farmland, more than a million acres,” Jacobsma said.
“Even at that, hopes for any Friant allocation would likely depend upon Reclamation’s ability to deliver the entire Exchange Contractor supply from the Delta,” Jacobsma added.
LITTLE RUNOFF EXPECTED
Very little San Joaquin River runoff is currently predicted in what has been on a pace to become the river’s all-time record dry water year.
The California Department of Water Resources reported on February 20 it expects, using a dry scenario, that the San Joaquin River will generate full natural runoff of only 230,000 acre-feet (18% of average) during the April-through-July peak runoff months.
If normal amounts of precipitation were to occur for the rest of the water year, DWR forecasts the April-July runoff would still be very low at 440,000 acre-feet, 35% of average. That would be comparable to the drought of 1977.
Groundwater pumping will be largely the source of water supplies in a number of Friant districts.
The water table, already stressed by the previous two years of below average Friant Division water deliveries, will continue to decline.
Some areas served by the Friant-Kern Canal along the Sierra Nevada foothills have little or no groundwater availability but are fully developed farmland.
The Friant Division service area is among the world’s most productive agricultural regions and is heavily planted to permanent crops.
Agricultural leaders predict surface water supply curtailments in the CVP as well as those on rivers such as the Kern, Tule, Kaweah, Kings, Fresno and Chowchilla will have enormous negative economic impacts on families, communities and businesses.
“The Friant Water Authority, Friant contractors and the Bureau of Reclamation are going to do everything possible but the fact is that the Friant Division this year is entering into uncharted waters as we experience the sorts of drastic water shortages that have become sadly common along the valley’s West Side over the past 20 years,” Jacobsma said.
“With the current water supply situation, there is a growing fear that tens of thousands of acres of permanent plantings are at risk of not being able to survive the summer,” he said.
Michael L. Connor, Commissioner of Reclamation, said the Bureau “will monitor the hydrology as the water year progresses and continue to look for opportunities to exercise operational flexibility in future allocations.”
The Bureau says that as drought conditions continue putting further stress on limited water supplies, the federal agency will work with state agencies and all contractors “to effectively carry out project operations consistent with all applicable laws.”
“Achieving maximum flexibility in Delta export operations will be key in allowing the Bureau to meet Exchange Contractor substitute water supply operations, which is critical for Friant to be able to use whatever supplies may be generated in the upper San Joaquin River watershed,” Jacobsma said.