As severe drought conditions continue, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project began the 2022 water year with 3.21 million acre-feet of water, about 52% of a 15-year average and one of the lowest starting points in recent years.
CVP major reservoirs include Trinity, Shasta, Folsom, New Melones, Millerton and the federal share of San Luis Reservoir. The water year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.
Water years 2020 and 2021 are the second driest two-year period on record, behind 1976 to 1977. Although the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys received well-below-average rainfall, the snowpack in March 2021 indicated sufficient reservoir inflow was likely available to meet CVP requirements. Conditions significantly changed at the end of April 2021, however, when reservoir inflow from snowmelt was significantly less than expected. Inflow to Shasta Reservoir, California’s largest reservoir, was the lowest on record during the 2021 water year.
“After a dry 2020 water year, a critically dry 2021, and beginning the 2022 water year with one of the lowest carryover storage amounts in recent years, Reclamation remains all hands on deck and fully committed to planning for another dry year,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We will continue to collaborate with our water users, stakeholders, and agency partners to develop and implement proactive measures and creative solutions to get through the coming water year together and best manage our critical water resources.”
The CVP is the largest single source of irrigation water in California, typically supplying water to about 3 million acres of agricultural land in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. The CVP also provides urban water for millions of people and industrial water essential to the San Francisco Bay Area’s economy.
Water from the CVP is also essential for the environment, wildlife and fishery restoration, and hydroelectric power production. The Shasta powerhouse has a capacity of 633 MW, Folsom 198.72 MW, New Melones 300 MW and Trinity 140 MW. San Luis Reservoir provides water to the 424-MW William R. Gianelli pump-generating plant. During the 2021 water year, CVP power plants generated about 2.9 billion kWh, well below an average year, which is about 4.5 billion kWh. Project use is anticipated to have consumed about 20% of this electricity. The remaining energy was made available to public agency contractors serve by the Western Area Power Administration.
Reclamation continues to work with federal and state partner agencies and CVP water and power customers to prepare for potentially ongoing drought conditions. Another consecutive dry water year would present extreme operational challenges for the CVP, according to a release.