Bureau makes initial water allocation to California’s rice region

Shasta Dam

An improved snowpack in the Sierra Nevada prompted the Bureau of Reclamation to make initial water allocations for water users north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — photo courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates California’s Central Valley Project, updated water allocations originally made Feb. 20.

Agricultural water service contractors north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will now receive an allocation of 20 percent, according to a bureau news release. The bureau had not addressed north of Delta water users during its initial allocation announcement in February because of extremely slow snowpack and anticipated runoff combined with the need to manage river temperatures for endangered fish later in the water-use year.

Nearly all of California’s rice is grown north of the Delta, and much of the ground relies on water from CVP’s Shasta and Trinity dams and the Sacramento River.

Municipal and industrial service contractors north of the Delta, in the Delta and on the American River will receive the greater of 70 percent of their historic use or public health and safety needs.

The March announcement includes contractors throughout the Trinity, Shasta, Sacramento River, American River and Delta divisions of the CVP.

The Friant Division Class 1 water allocation was increased to 60 percent from the 30 percent initial allocation. The Friant Division obtains its water from Millerton Lake behind the Friant Dam east of Fresno.

This increase was due to improved hydrologic conditions, commercial power operations in the Upper San Joaquin River Basin, current storage in Millerton Lake and continued cooler weather patterns.