The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) yesterday announced that they will increase the State Water Project allocations to 15%, but Scientist Deirdre Des Jardins of California Water Research warns that DWR is “taking a huge risk” of not meeting environmental water needs later in the year given the huge problems last year with watershed runoff forecasts.
2021 was one of the most disastrous years ever for imperiled salmon and other fish species on Central Valley rivers and the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, due to mismanagement of scarce water during a record drought by the state and federal governments, according to a a coalition of Tribes and fishing, environmental justice and conservation organizations.
Only 2.6 percent of endangered winter-run Chinook juveniles on the Sacramento River survived and the majority of wild spring-run Chinooks on Butte Creek perished before spawning in low, warm water conditions: sacramento.newsreview.com/...
The Delta smelt, once the most abundant species on the entire estuary, became virtually extinct in the wild as zero Delta smelt were caught in the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey for the fourth year in a row:www.dailykos.com/...
In December of 2021, due to low water levels, DWR announced that the initial water allocation would cover only “critical health and safety needs” of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive State Water Project supplies.
Then things “changed.”
“December storms enabled DWR to convey and store water in San Luis Reservoir, which allows for a modest increase in water deliveries this year,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “But severe drought is not over. Dry conditions have already returned in January. Californians must continue to conserve as the state plans for a third dry year.”
In addition to the “modest increase” in State Water Project allocation to 15 percent, DWR said it will continue to “work with its water supply contractors to address any unmet health and safety needs for 2022.”
Although DWR is making this allocation increase, the agency said it continues to plan for a third consecutive dry year.
However, Des Jardins said DWR made “major errors” in runoff forecasting — and never provided a report on the reasons for these errors.
“In June of 2021, we asked the State Water Resources Control Board to require the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation to provide a report on the reasons for the major errors in runoff forecasting, and to hold a workshop on runoff forecasts,” countered De Jardins. “DWR revised their 2021 snow runoff forecasting method, but did not provide a report. The Water Board did not hold a workshop.”
“DWR's new runoff forecasting method is untested and has not been provided for independent experts to examine. Nor to my knowledge has there been independent peer review. And the Dixie Fire is likely to alter watershed hydrology,” noted Des Jardins.
“This is a Don't Look Up moment for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta,” Des Jardins concluded, referring to the widely acclaimed movie.
In related news, DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation withdrew their application for a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) for February 1 through April 2022.
“The petition would have provided flexibility for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to release less water into the Delta through April 2022 to conserve limited stored water in Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs. While Shasta continues to be in a critical condition, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs are projected to meet downstream water quality needs through the spring,” DWR stated.