Sacramento Valley rice growers will receive more water than expected this drought year due to recent storms and an agreement to defer irrigation water use by at least one month.

As a result, growers of rice and other crops who tap into the Central Valley Project (CVP) will receive 75 percent of their federal water allocation this season.

The water-allocation plan was announced during a media briefing conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

 

 

Under the plan, agency officials say water will be managed this year to benefit salmon, birds along the Pacific Flyway, and family farms which are all economic drivers for the region.

“The announcement was an absolute godsend,” says Colusa County rice grower Bruce Rolen, owner of Bruce & Barbara Rolen Farms in Williams. “It was a wonderful relief to all growers in the Sacramento Valley.”

Water availability was questionable for several months due to the severe statewide drought.

“We received a notice several months ago from Bureau of Reclamation indicating that our settlement contract would only include a 40 percent supply,” said Thad Bettner, general manager of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID).

This was followed by continued drought and speculation that farmers would receive zero surface water. This changed following significant rain and snow storms in February and March.

 

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Tim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Sacramento-based California Rice Commission: “We were concerned about eight weeks ago that there would be no surface water (river or reservoir) for agriculture in the state. In that case, we would have only been able to grow rice with groundwater” – a scenario discussed by CDWR.

“This would have devastated agriculture and rice,” Johnson said. “We don’t use much groundwater in the Sacramento Valley since we have always had surface water. Due to the additional rains and water managers working closely with the different state and federal agencies, we were able to get a much different outcome.”

Sacramento River settlement contractors also agreed to shift the beginning of federal water deliveries from the usual March-April schedule to May-June to provide water for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife species.

The settlement contractors worked diligently to shift diversions into May to increase Shasta Reservoir storage by more than 150,000 acre feet. The water will be used later for temperature-controlled releases to enhance salmon survival.