The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates federal water projects in California’s Central Valley, has cut the amount of water it plans to deliver to contracts from initial allocations.

Bureau officials in Sacramento, Calif., cite the driest spring on record as a reason for the delivery reductions.

The day after that announcement, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought emergency June 4 and issued an executive order that directs the state Department of Water Resources in Sacramento to:

  • Aid water transfers to respond to emergency shortages across the state.
  • Work with local water districts and agencies to improve local coordination.
  • Help local water districts and agencies improve water efficiency and conservation.
  • Coordinate with other state and federal agencies and departments to assist water suppliers, identify risks to water supply and help farmers suffering losses.
  • Expedite existing grant programs to help local water districts and agencies conserve.

The executive order also encourages local water districts and agencies to promote water conservation.

Last month, the department's final 2008 snow survey showed snowpack water content at only 67 percent of normal and the runoff forecast at only 55 percent of normal.

Earlier this spring, the Bureau of Reclamation had announced it would deliver 45 percent of contracts to agricultural irrigation districts. That has been reduced to 40 percent.

Agricultural users within the Friant Division near Fresno will receive about 70 percent of average allocations—or about 1.25 million acre-feet. An acre-foot—325,851 gallons—is the average amount used by a family of five annually.

The reduction has sparked particular concern in the San Joaquin Valley, but CVP customers in the Sacramento Valley also face cuts. Some farmers there already have used their full allotment of CVP water, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacrament. They’ll supplement with well water, further straining groundwater supplies.

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