California Farmers to Get More Water

May 5, 2010 10:53 AM
Water flows south through the California Delta to irrigate farmland. (Photo: California Department of Water Resources)

Water deliveries to farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley are on the rise this year.

Both the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the federal U.S. Bureau of Reclamation yesterday announced they would increase 2010 water allocations to 40% for water contractors south of the Delta.

That's up from 30% last month and from 5% as recently as February.

Officials credited California's spring storms and an above-normal mountain snowpack for the boost in water deliveries. Those sources feed the two state and federal water systems, which deliver most of the surface water needed to irrigate San Joaquin Valley farms.

Three years of drought and court-ordered reductions to protect wildlife have cut water deliveries to hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland. Ag interests have been pleading for more water to flow south from the Delta, the state's water hub.

In announcing the increased allocations for the Bureau of Reclamation's 2010 Central Valley Project (CVP) Water Supply, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar pointed to recent help.

"It is because of the determination and cooperation of our partner agencies, water users, and stakeholders, and because of the support of Senators Feinstein and Boxer, and Congressional Representatives Miller, Cardoza, Costa, Thompson, and Grace Napolitano that we are able to make this announcement today,” Salazar said.

The increased allocations haven't, however, ended California's water crisis.

"Although the snowpack has reached its highest May 1 levels since 2006, and allows us to raise our projected deliveries to communities, farms and businesses, we must not be lulled into a false sense of complacency” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.

"The harsh reality is that we continue to have a severe problem with water in California,” Cowin added. "A 40% allocation will still leave many communities with water shortages this year. Recovering from three consecutive years of drought, and restrictions on Delta pumping, means we must continue to conserve water and work as hard as ever toward a comprehensive solution to our water crisis.”

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Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at

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