Today, the Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources jointly filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition with the State Water Resources Control Board to temporarily modify requirements in water right permits and licenses for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project between April 1 and June 30. These changes are in response to a historically dry January, February, and first half of March, which are typically our wettest months. Facing a third consecutive year of critically dry conditions, these changes are expected to conserve vital water supplies in upstream reservoirs for critical needs later in the year, including public health and safety, and environmental needs.
After a series of strong December storms, Reclamation and DWR had been hopeful that water from Folsom and Oroville reservoirs would provide for adequate water supply and environmental needs later in the year and a TUCP would not be necessary. However, following the historically dry January and February, Folsom and Oroville are seeing unprecedented declines in inflow forecast. With this decrease in expected inflow, these reservoirs cannot support Delta outflows as expected and there is inadequate storage in other CVP and SWP reservoirs to meet other critical water supply and environmental needs later in the year without a TUCP in place.
“Reclamation and DWR, along with the federal and state fish agencies, have been coordinating throughout the winter to address increasingly challenging hydrologic conditions for environmental flows and water supply,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We all recognize what a difficult year this is going to be for everyone. It’s definitely another roll-up-your-sleeves, all-hands-on-deck water year.”
“DWR has been planning for conditions to remain dry since the start of the water year on October 1. We are facing tough but important decisions about how to manage the system for a third year of drought,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We are taking critical steps like submitting the Temporary Urgency Change Petition in coordination with our federal and state partners, to balance the needs of endangered species, water supply conservation, and water deliveries to Californians.”
As part of the all-hands approach, DWR is also planning to refill the notch in the Emergency Drought Salinity Barrier in the Delta. Work will begin on April 1 to fill in the notch, with completion by April 15. The barrier reduces the amount of saltwater intrusion into the Delta, allowing for reduced flows from upstream reservoirs to conserve water supply. Additionally, based on a recognition by Reclamation and DWR as to the importance of better understanding the source of harmful algal blooms and their impact upon the Delta region, the two are committed to fully participating in multi-agency efforts to address this issue, such as that recognized by the Water Board in response to comments received on the 2021 drought actions.
Additional operational flexibility of the Projects is needed to support priorities, including: providing for minimum health and safety water supplies; preserving upstream storage for release later in the summer to control saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; preserving cold water in Shasta Lake and other reservoirs to maintain cool river temperatures for Chinook salmon and steelhead; maintaining protections for state and federally endangered and threatened species; and meeting critical water supply needs.