Drought Causes Record Low Water Allocations for California

Sacramento DeltaClimate conditions and regulations are causing California to reassess water allocation, potentially taking drastic conservation measures.

California’s water supply agency says the urban areas and irrigation districts can expect only five percent of their usual contracted water allotments in 2010 because of ongoing drought and environmental restrictions.

The initial allocation figure— the lowest since the agency was started in 1967—reflects the worst drought in the state’s history. Low reservoir levels and federally mandated restrictions on water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect endangered fish species have compounded scarcity issues.

The allocation is “a very conservative estimate” of what the Water Resources Department expects it can deliver to users next year, according to a press release from the state agency. The amount of water that will eventually be delivered is expected to be greater once actual water supply conditions are determined.

The agency provides water to more than 25 million California residents— 66 percent of the state’s population—and to more than 750,000 acres of farmland.

Last month, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature reached agreement on a landmark $40 billion project to overhaul the state’s water system.

“The legislature took a major step forward earlier this month to address the state’s water needs by heeding Governor Schwarzenegger’s call and passing the most comprehensive water package in California history,” Water Resources Department Director Lester A. Snow said in the statement. “Nevertheless, on the heels of a three-year drought, we need to prepare now so that we have adequate water supplies for homes, farms and businesses.”

Sources: California Water Resources Department, San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, New York Times

3 replies
  1. Robin Bertelsen says:

    I found Peter Gleick’s article (http://bit.ly/5kccys) very helpful in explaining what the agency means by their apparently dire prediction. Of course, Mr. Glieck is always insightful on the politics and facts surrounding water scarcity. I recommend everyone take a look at his posts to better understand this complex issue.

  2. Tom says:

    It is increasingly clear that water challenges will affect those in both developed and developing countries. Professor Burn on the Future Agenda blog noted that “without decisive action the imbalance between availability and demand will continue to escalate” http://www.futureagenda.org/?cat=3

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