With temperatures increasing and the likelihood of rain all but over for this water year, farmers across Westlands are doing their best to grow food for summer and fall harvest amid yet another year of drought. To understand how drought conditions in across California affect farmers in the Central Valley, lets take a look at where Westlands’ water comes from.
Westlands’ primary source of water is the Central Valley Project (CVP). Water for the CVP starts as rain and snow in the Cascades, Trinity Alps, and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. The precipitation that falls on the mountains makes its way to a CVP reservoirs such as Shasta Lake. Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in the CVP, can store approximately 4.55 million acre-feet (1.5 trillion gallons) of water. Water is released from CVP reservoirs when needed for the environment, communities, business, and agriculture.
Water that ultimately makes its way to the south Delta is lifted into the Delta-Mendota Canal at the C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant, and is either stored, again, in the San Luis Reservoir, the largest off-stream reservoir in the country, or sent to communities or farms on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley, in Silicon Valley, and in San Benito County.
The San Luis Unit, which spans approximately 102 miles from the San Luis Reservoir to Kettleman City, serves Westlands and others. A key portion of the San Luis Unit is the San Luis Canal which conveys more than 1 trillion gallons of water in an average year and conveys water for homes, businesses, wildlife refuges, and hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile farmland.
Once water flows into Westlands service area through the San Luis Canal, a slot on the side of the canal opens and siphons off a precise, measured amount of water into Westlands’ underground, fully enclosed pipelines. Westlands’ unique system protects water from evaporation and seepage while distributing water to farms and communities. This system ensures that water is not wasted. Farmers receive metered water through the underground pipe and use this water to strategically irrigate land and grow approximately 60 different high-quality, nutritious crops for the fresh, dry, canned, and frozen foods.
In February, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Westlands and other South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors would receive only a 5% allocation; since then, due to worsening drought conditions, Reclamation announced that it will not provide Westlands or other agricultural repayment and water service contractors with any water. That means the only water available to farmers in Westlands is CVP water rescheduled from a prior year, water purchased on the transfer market, and groundwater.
Want to learn more about how water gets to Westlands? You can “Follow the Water Drop” in our new fact sheet. Learn more about how water is allocated to Westlands by checking out our Let’s Talk About the Central Valley Project Allocation video, featuring Westlands Water Resources Engineer Tom Boardman or the Let’s Talk About District Water Supply video featuring Chief Operating Officer Jose Gutierrez.