From the Chronicle…
(2/27/15 by Kurtis Alexander)
Some highlights…or are they lowlights?
“In short, we’re dealing with a critically dry year,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional Director David Murillo, who announced the reduced water allocations Friday afternoon. “The rain events in December were encouraging, but the persistent dry weather the first two months of this year underscores our need to plan for another critical year of drought.”
The project, a network of nearly two dozen dams and 500 miles of canals extending the length of the Sierra, is running with less water than usual as California endures a fourth straight dry winter.
The system’s biggest reservoir, Lake Shasta, on Friday was at just 79 percent of where it usually stands this time of year. More worrisome, the mountain snowpack that normally recharges Shasta and other reservoirs averaged just 19 percent of normal.
Making matters worse for water users, the federal cuts announced this week follow last month’s news that the State Water Project, a slightly smaller network of reservoirs and canals, is also expecting to dole out limited water this year.
The state Water Resources Control Board recently declined a request to increase pumping to farms from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, citing the need to maintain sufficient water for endangered delta smelt and salmon. But the decision is under appeal, and growers hope a reversal will send at least a little more water their way.
A 2014 study by the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis estimated that the drought was costing farmers about $1 billion in lost crops, livestock and dairy last year. A dry 2015 and 2016, the report projected, would be even more costly as water sources, such as groundwater, are increasingly used up.
There are not any easy solutions and there will be no winners. Expect the pressure to find an alternative home for Humboldt’s water to intensify.