California Announces Cuts to State Water Project – Again

by Adel

California’s water situation is not getting any better as the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announces a cut from 15% to 5% of requested water supplies to the State Water Project. 

The start of 2022 has been one of the driest on ever. With the driest January and February on record, the DWR had cut its water allocations. December had higher than usual snowfall, which made the department hopeful of a better year to come. Unfortunately that was not the case. 

The State Water Project (SWP) is the victim of the reduced water supplies. The SWP is a project started in 1960 with the intention of supplying water areas with water from northern rivers. The SWP uses a large network of pipes, aqueducts and pumping stations. 

The SWP is one of the largest water power utilities in the world. The SWP provides water to about 27 million people, that is almost 68% of California’s 40 million residents. 

The project also provides water to 750,000 acres of farmland. The SWP splits its water supply with 70% going to urban areas, residents and businesses and 30% going to farms. 

Since the announced cut is aimed specifically at the State Water Project, this means that many Californians will not be affected by the cuts. This does not mean, however that they are still not affected by the drought currently overtaking the West.

California and the US West are experiencing the worst megadrought in over 1200 years. The current drought started 20 years ago and scientists estimate that it will continue for at least a few more years. The drought is also exacerbated by human caused climate change. 

In the statement regarding the cut, Karla Nemeth said “We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions. That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science,” 

She stated that the state is juggling needs of three major groups, “endangered species, water supply conservation, and water deliveries for millions of Californians.”

california state water project
Lake Oroville on the morning of Memorial Day 2021. In May 2021, water levels of Lake Oroville dropped to 38% of capacity. The boats are dwarved by the exposed banks while California is headed into another drought year.

The DWR announced it would conserve as much water as possible in Lake Oroville. Lake Oroville is the biggest water reservoir used by the State Water Project. Water released from Lake Oroville will be prioritized to maintain Delta water quality, protect endangered species, and meet senior water right needs.

In an effort to reduce water usage by, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged residents to reduce water usage by 15%. California residents have not met the task with overall water usage by residents decreasing by less than half that number. January also saw an increase in water usage compared to 2020. 

So far the governor has not mandated any limits to water usage by residents, but there is a growing call to do so. The former governor did mandate a limit to water usage during a previous drought. Instead, Gov. Newsom is recently announced an $8 million public awareness campaign to incite residents to reduce their water usage. 

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