A Busy Start to 2020
The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) was very busy at the beginning of 2020. In February alone, Reclamation signed the Record of Decision on the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), announced the initial allocation for Central Valley Project contractors, and converted eight (8) water service contracts to repayment contracts, one of which was the District’s contract.
On February 25, 2020, citing a lack of precipitation in the early months of 2020 as a significant factor, Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 15% for South-of-Delta agricultural water service contractors. A statement issued by Westlands Water District noted that, although it wished the initial allocation were higher, “Reclamation cannot allocate water that its operations forecast indicates will not be available.”
Despite a promising start to the 2019 - 2020 hydrologic year, January and February were drier than average, with February classifying as the driest on record. Reclamation supported its initial allocation announcement based on its February 1 hydrologic conditions forecast; at that time, the accumulated precipitation was 62% of average. Ultimately accumulated precipitation slipped to 52% by the February 25 announcement. In addition to scarce precipitation, low San Luis Reservoir storage conditions, and lower than average snow water content contributed to the 15% allocation.
Despite the early dry conditions, hydrologic conditions recently have improved and new operations for the CVP, discussed below, provide some hope that allocations will increase in May.
Record of Decision on updated Central Valley Project Operations
The Record of Decision (ROD) for CVP and SWP Operations was signed into effect on February 19, 2020. A statement issued by Reclamation cites that the updated operations approved through the ROD will “bring added operational flexibility, which will enhance water reliability throughout the [CVP] system. For example, by incorporating real-time monitoring into the CVP, the ROD enables better decision making and flexibilities to quickly respond to agricultural, environmental and endangered species conditions.” The District estimates that, if the operations approved through the ROD were in effect in 2019, the CVP and SWP would have had been able to move an additional one-million acre feet of water. That is enough water to irrigate 300,000 acres of land or serve more than 2 million households.
Westlands Water District Water Service Contract Conversion
On February 28, 2020, the District and Reclamation signed a contract that converts the District’s water service contract to a repayment contract, pursuant to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act). The WIIN Act requires that, upon the request of any water service contractor, the Secretary of the Interior must convert that contractor’s water service contract to a repayment contract. The District is among more than 75 water agencies served by the CVP that elected to convert their water contracts. A full list is available by downloading the WIIN Act Contractor Tracker on the Bureau of Reclamation’s website.
The WIIN Act was signed by President Barak Obama in 2016, as part of a larger water package, with the purpose of improving water infrastructure especially in the western United States. President Obama noted that the WIIN Act is intended to help meet California’s long-term water needs by helping to “assure that California is more resilient in the face of growing water demands and drought-based uncertainty.”
The full statement from Westlands Water District about the contract conversion can be found here.
Several updates occurred in the beginning of 2020 which effected the District, and water overall, in California, for updates in real time regarding news impacting the District and its activities, follow us on social media.