Thursday, 30 May 2024

State hosts Thursday drought summit

SACRAMENTO – State, federal and local water officials gathered Thursday to discuss California’s ongoing drought and ways to alleviate the effects of ongoing dry conditions.

At the Drought Summit hosted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Director Lester Snow announced the creation of a 2009 Drought Water Bank, a program designed to facilitate water transfers.

“We are in the midst of a drought right now and California potentially faces another dry year in 2009. It’s clear that we must find solutions to our water crisis,” Snow said. “A water bank provides a valuable tool to help provide water to communities who need it most. This is just one of the many ways the state is working to address the drought.”

Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman, Secretary for Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director Dorothy Rice and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Don Glaser participated in the summit.

Information about the state’s water and reservoir supply, drought modeling and forecasts of future water allocations, financial and programmatic assistance and other efforts to help water contractors, local water agencies, farmers and all state water users cope with the drought.

A significant recent action was the expedited funding of $17 million in Prop 50 Drought Assistance Program grants last week to local water agencies and districts to implement water saving projects.

At the summit, local agencies had the opportunity to share examples of how a lack of water is affecting their communities and made recommendations about how the state can support local water agencies, large and small, as they grapple with the shortages.

On June 4, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-06-08 declaring a statewide drought, which directed state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the dry conditions. He also issued a State of Emergency Proclamation for nine Central Valley counties (Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern) to address that area’s urgent water needs.

For the Northern Sierra, this spring and summer were the driest on record since 1921. In addition, 2007 and 2008 made up the ninth driest two-year period in 88 years of record keeping for the Northern Sierra.

Statewide precipitation for the six-month period February through July 2008 was 45 percent of average – the fourth driest of 114 years on record.

State reservoir capacities are at severe lows, with Folsom at 31 percent, Shasta at 34 percent and San Luis at 13 percent.

By the end of this water year (Sept. 30), Lake Oroville will reach its lowest carryover storage since the drought of 1977.

Clear Lake's levels are just slightly above those at this time last year, according to DWR's California Data Exchange Center.

The water shortage is affecting the state’s economy, slowing down development projects and forcing growers to fallow land. For example, farmers in northern San Diego County are stumping avocado trees and pulling out citrus trees due to water shortages. The Westland Water District reports that one-third of the farmland is being fallowed this year, at a loss of at least 500 jobs. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports the result of the drought is a $260 million loss to the state’s ag industry this year.

Preliminary information shows that the 2009 water year likely will also be severely dry. State water planners are preparing for a protracted drought by instituting a variety of programs intended to conserve water and stretch the state’s resources.

To implement the 2009 Drought Water Bank, DWR will purchase water from willing sellers, primarily from water agencies upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

This water will be transferred using State Water Project (SWP) or Central Valley Project (CVP) facilities to water agencies that are at risk of experiencing water shortages in 2009 due to drought conditions and that require supplemental water supplies to meet anticipated demands. Water acquired by the 2009 program would be available for purchase by public and private water systems in California based on certain needs criteria.

Water supplies from the 2009 Drought Water Bank will be open to all water providers who can obtain water from the Delta either directly or by exchange with other water providers who have access to Delta water supplies from the SWP or CVP.

For additional information about the drought, visit the Department of Water Resource’s drought web page at


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