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Friant Growers Celebrate 100% Federal Water Allocation

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Millerton Lake, shown in July 2019, provides water for growers and communities in the Friant Water Authority. (Bureau of Reclamation/ Duane Stroup)
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California’s unusually wet winter delivered fantastic news for Friant Water Authority growers and communities on Wednesday.

There also was good news for west-side growers in Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which haven’t received federal water since 2020 because of the  state’s historic drought.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s initial 2023 water supply forecast for Central Valley Project participants includes a 100% allocation for Friant’s Class 1 contractors and 20% for Friant’s Class 2 contractors.

Full Flows for Salmon Restoration

There’s good news for San Joaquin River salmon restoration efforts as well. The restoration program will receive a “wet year” allocation of about 556,500 acre-feet of water to support habitat and spawning conditions for returning salmon.

“These allocations are excellent news for the communities and farms in the Friant Division and on the eastside, as well as for the river restoration effort which had to halt flows last year due to the drought,” FWA said in a news release. “We are encouraged by Reclamation’s confidence in water availability for the 2023 water year and appreciate the early allocation announcement, as it helps farmers and water managers plan for planting crops or implementing recharge projects throughout the remainder of the season.”

Friant Water Authority map (FWA)

35% for Westlands, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Districts

The Westlands and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota water districts received initial allocations of 35% of their allocations. Both districts received 0% allocations in 2021 and 2022.

“We are grateful for a 35% allocation and thank the dedicated staff at Reclamation, who worked hard to allocate as much water as feasible to the water users who have survived on a 0% allocation for the past two years,” said Westlands interim general manager Jose Gutierrez in a statement.

“The past two years of 0% resulted in over 223,000 acres, approximately 36% of the district’s farmland, being allowed. … An adequate and reliable supply of surface water is critical to the viability of the communities and farms in the San Joaquin Valley and their ability to feed the world. We are hopeful that precipitation continues to fall and are appreciative of the initial allocation from Reclamation.”

DWR Announces 35% Allocation

On Wednesday, the state Department of Water Resources announced a modest increase in State Water Project deliveries due to early gains in the Sierra snowpack. DWR said that it will deliver 35% of water supply requests. That’s an increase from the 30% forecast in January.

The project supplies 29 public water agencies serving 27 million Californians. The increased allocation represents an additional 210,000 acre-feet of water.

“We’re hopeful that more storms this week are a sign that the wet weather will return, but there remains a chance that 2023 will be a below-average water year in the northern Sierra.” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.

“Careful planning and the use of advanced forecasting tools will enable the Department to balance the needs of our communities, agriculture, and the environment should dry conditions continue this spring and into next year.”

Calls for New Investment in Water Storage, Conveyance

The two large west-side districts used Wednesday’s allocations announcement to lobby for new investment in California’s water storage and conveyance systems.

Said Federico Barajas, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority:

“In an era of increasing climate whiplash, we must advance long-term and sustainable solutions — we must invest in the maintenance, improvement, and restoration of our critical infrastructure that serves as the backbone of California .. .”

Gutierrez said, “This year’s initial allocation demonstrates the critical and urgent need to invest in water storage and conveyance infrastructure. California must do a better job capturing water during wet periods, like those we experienced at the end of December and beginning of January.

“The district continues to pursue, support, and implement balanced solutions that protect and restore the water supplies needed by the families that live and work in and around the district. (We are) committed to ensuring every drop of water available is put to good use, including for California’s precious ecosystems.”

See Complete List of CVP Allocations

See the complete list of CVP initial water allocations at this link.

“We received a much-needed dose of rain and snow in December and January that helped boost the water levels at our CVP reservoirs, said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “The projected runoff from the snowmelt later this year will further benefit the state as we head into the summer months. However, we are all too aware of the precarious nature of recent weather patterns and must proceed prudently as we move through the water year—especially with below average storage in the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta.”

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email