Another dry year would force the federal Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project to face “extreme operational challenges.”

That's what Reclamation stated as the CVP began the 2021-2022 water year at 52 percent of the 15-year average.

Reclamation stated as the severe drought continues, CVP began the year with 3.21 million acre-feet of water, one of the lowest starting points in recent years. The CVP's major reservoirs include Trinity, Shasta, Folsom, New Melones, Millerton, and the federal share of San Luis Reservoir.

Reclamation stated their storage was 52 percent of the 15-year average. The water year runs from October 1-September 30 each year.

After a dry 2020 water year, a critically dry 2021, and beginning the 2022 water year with one of the lowest carryover storage amounts in recent years, Reclamation remains all hands on deck and fully committed to planning for another dry year,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We will continue to collaborate with our water users, stakeholders, and agency partners to develop and implement proactive measures and creative solutions to get through the coming water year together and best manage our critical water resources.”

Water years 2020 and 2021 were the second driest two-year period on record, behind 1976-1977. Although the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys received well-below average rainfall, the snowpack in March 2021 indicated sufficient reservoir inflow was likely available to meet CVP requirements, Reclamation stated.

However conditions significantly changed at the end of April 2021 when reservoir inflow from snowmelt was significantly less than expected. Inflow to Shasta Reservoir, California’s largest reservoir, was the lowest on record during the 2021 water year.

One acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot. 

The CVP is the largest single source of irrigation water in California, typically supplying water to about 3 million acres of agricultural land in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. The CVP also provides urban water for millions of people and industrial water to the San Francisco Bay Area’s.

Water from the CVP also helps maintain the environment, wildlife and fishery restoration, and hydroelectric power production.

During the 2021 water year, CVP power plants generated about 2.9 billion kilowatt-hours, well below an average year, which is about 4.5 billion kilowatt-hours.

CVP power plants generated about 20 percent hydroelectric power that was used in the region. The remaining hydroelectric power was made available to public agency contractors served by the Western Area Power Administration.

Reclamation continues to work with federal and state partner agencies and CVP water and power customers to prepare for potentially ongoing drought conditions,” Reclamation stated.

But Reclamation added, “Another consecutive dry water year would present extreme operational challenges for the CVP.”

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