Energy & Environment

US won’t deliver water to California farmers amid severe drought

Federal officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation did not initially allocate any water to farmers and irrigation contractors in California for 2022 as the state enters its third year of a severe drought.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the Central Valley Project (CVP) — one of two major complexes of irrigations, dams and canals in California — explained in a news release that water levels in the CVP’s reservoir were below a historic average for this time of year, resulting in irrigation contractors north and south of the river Delta starting out with no water allocation this year.

“Losing over a million acre-feet of projected inflow in two weeks’ time is concerning. We’ve got our work cut out for us this year,” Ernest Conant, the regional director at the Bureau of Reclamation, said in a statement.

The Westlands Water District said in a release this was the fourth time in the last decade that south of Delta irrigation contractors received no allocation. The district organization said it was disappointed in the decision but understood why it was made.

“Within Westlands, the continued drought conditions in 2021 resulted in over 200,000 acres fallowed, countless lost jobs, and thousands of acres of food unharvested,” the district said. “The circumstances in 2021 and those facing us in 2022 demonstrate the need invest in infrastructure to better manage the State’s water resources.”

According to The Associated Press, farmers started last year with a 5 percent allocation but ended at zero percent because the drought intensified. This year, they are starting at zero percent.

Conant told the newswire it was “devastating to the agricultural economy and to those people that rely on it.”

“But unfortunately we can’t make it rain,” he added.

The CVP covers 400 miles in California and primarily draws from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. The state of California covers the other major source of water distribution, the State Water Project.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a drought emergency last year after it was reported the state was suffering its driest summer since 1895.

According to the state’s Drought Monitor, more than 37 million Californians are affected by the current drought.

Tags California California drought farmers Gavin Newsom U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

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