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Drought means 80% cut in water deliveries
A family enjoys the solitude of a quiet afternoon lunch Wednesday at Lathrop’s Dos Reis boat launch facility in spring-like weather. The National Weather Service expecting temperatures to reach 73 degrees today as winter draws to a close. Spring on Friday will be ushered in with a high of 71 degrees. - photo by HIME ROMERO
First, the bad news when it comes to the drought.

The two days of rain – and possible snow in the Sierra  – hoped for this weekend may fizzle out to just light showers on Saturday night.

The semi-good news is the earlier Sierra snowfall this month has allowed the State Water Project on Wednesday to announce it will deliver 20 percent of the water they’d normally send to cities and agricultural users up and down California. While that is an improvement over the previously anticipated 15 percent deliveries it still doesn’t get California out of the woods.

“We are grateful for the sip of relief we’ve gotten from recent storms and the allocation increase,” said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors.   “We need to remain cautious though. Employment figures for farm workers will not improve as a result of a marginally increased water allocation from the state.  Water rates will not come down for families in the Bay Area or Southern California.  Reservoirs will not suddenly fill. Salmon and other fish facing extinction risks in an unhealthy ecosystem will not magically recover.”

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District expects to provide full deliveries to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy municipal users as well as district farmers. They are doing so with a caveat. They are asking everyone to watch every ounce of water so they can determine before summer how much water they can spare to help others in precarious water situations.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields, who earlier this month noted the board has taken the stance “we are all Californians”, are looking for ways to help others.

It could come by squeezing enough water out to replace Tracy’s Bureau of Reclamation deliveries which in turn would free up water for cities and farmers further south.

The State Water Project and the Bureau of Reclamation account for 70 percent of California’s water supplies.

In the past two years, overall water runoff from California’s major watersheds fell significantly, coming in at 53 percent of average in 2007 and 58 percent last year.  Even with the recent rains, this year’s overall runoff is forecast to be just 64 percent of average. As of last week, the state’s seven major reservoirs were at 55 percent of their capacity.

California is entering its third year of drought. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a drought emergency and is calling on every Californian to reduce water use on a voluntary basis by 20 percent. If savings aren’t realized, mandatory rationing could be put in place.

The emergency declaration gives the state greater flexibility in moving water around. It is one of the reasons why the SSJID wants to get ahead of things so they can direct where extra district water goes. Their goal has been to make the district whole first and then help others in the county.