SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – In order to protect the state’s available water, the California Department of Water Resources says it has dropped the number of state water allocations to zero.
In a statement by the department on Friday, in order to protect the health and safety of state residents, the Department of Water Resources says everyone will get less water.
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“The harsh weather leaves us little choice,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “If we are to have any hope of coping with continued dry weather and balancing multiple needs, we must act now to preserve what water remains in our reservoirs.”
Aside from water carried over from 2013, State Water Project customers will get no deliveries in 2014 if the same conditions persist. Also, agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut by 50 percent, depending on the outcome of future snow surveys.
“It is our duty to give State Water Project customers a realistic understanding of how much water they will receive from the Project,” said Director Cowin. “Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project.”
The state’s largest reservoirs, Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta, are only at 36 percent capacity. With 750,000 acres of farmland partially depending on reservoirs like these, it is going to be one of the toughest years on record for agriculture.
With water scarce, it is surely going to set up a battle between farms, cities and wildlife.
“We’ve got to thread the needle on this, find a way to meet our water needs without it coming at the complete expense of our natural environment,” said wildlife advocate Eric Wesselman with Friends of the River.
DWR is holding back water flows for now to make sure the Delta isn’t threatened by what’s known as saltwater intrusion. Too much ocean water and species would quickly die off, and drinking water would be threatened.
“Our goal is to preserve enough water to maintain salinity control in the Delta to get us through the summer to get us to next year,” Cowin said.
But there are also economic decisions to be made. No water during the summer months could cripple companies that rely on kayakers and others who spend their days on the state’s rivers.
“Unless we get more rain and snow, the rivers are going to be very low, and I’m not going to have a normal recreation year,” said kayaker Charlie Willard.
This year is shaping up to be the driest in recorded state history. And while more rain my boost water storage and deliveries, the department says it needs to “rain and snow heavily every other day from now until May to get us back to average annual rain and snowfall.”
The SWP is the state’s system of water storage and delivery systems, which includes reservoirs, aqueducts, powerplants and pumping plants.
See a map of State Water Project facilities.
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