Feds Put Another $5 Million Toward Klamath Basin Drought Relief

The federal Bureau of Reclamation has pledged another $5 million toward drought relief in the Klamath Basin as farmers and other stakeholders in the region continue to grapple with a major shortage of water.

Reclamation previously awarded $15 million toward the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency, and the additional $5 million will join those funds. KPDRA is tasked with distributing the fund to irrigators in Oregon and California who are without an external water supply due to the drought. Reclamation said that the initial funds will be distributed on a per-acre basis later this year.

US Projections on Drought-Hit Colorado River Grow More Dire

The U.S. government released projections Wednesday that indicate an even more troubling outlook for a river that serves 40 million people in the American West.

The Bureau of Reclamation recently declared the first-ever shortage on the Colorado River, which means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will get less water than normal next year. By 2025, there’s a 66% chance Lake Mead, a barometer for how much river water some states get, will reach a level where California would be in its second phase of cuts. The nation’s most populated state has the most senior rights to river water.

Water Arrives at Desperately Dry Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge

The Bureau of Reclamation began releasing water from the Klamath River to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 3. Advocates hope it will improve wetland habitat on the refuge for migrating birds this fall. Last week, California Waterfowl Association officially purchased approximately 3,750 acre-feet of water from Agency Ranch in the Wood River Valley, above Upper Klamath Lake, having announced the purchase and fundraising effort this spring. Lower Klamath has been plagued by insufficient wetland habitat due to a lack of deliveries from the Klamath Project for the past 20 years.

New Projects On Colorado River Keep Coming Despite Water Shortage

The Bureau of Reclamation recently declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, but that hasn’t stopped states from proposing new water projects.

Just about every drop on the Colorado River is accounted for. But climate change has reduced the amount of water in the system.

Gary Wockner is with Save the Colorado, a conservation group that is tracking new projects.

Why Water Cuts Are Coming to Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico

The Bureau of Reclamation, the agency charged with water resources management for the West at the federal government level, announced unprecedented Tier 1 cuts in water deliveries from Lake Mead on the Colorado River to Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico in 2022. The Tier 1 cuts will reduce water deliveries due to historic low water levels in Lake Mead.

California deliveries are not impacted by this announcement due to senior water rights, but they could be coming if water levels continue to drop. The Colorado River watershed and most western river watersheds that feed reservoirs with snowmelt are not producing as much runoff as they have historically due to the warming atmosphere affecting snow elevations and dryer and warmer soil and air temperatures.

California Senators Seek to Expand Federal Authority Over Threatened Salton Sea

California Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill on Friday to expand federal authority over the ecologically threatened Salton Sea east of San Diego County.

The Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act would significantly expand the ability of the Bureau of Reclamation to partner with state, local, and tribal governments to address the public health and environmental crisis at the Salton Sea.

The bill also increases the amount the Bureau of Reclamation is authorized to spend towards these efforts from $10 million to $250 million.

Lake Powell Level About to Hit a Historic Low as West’s Water Crisis Deepens

Lake Powell will soon hit its lowest level since Glen Canyon Dam started trapping the Colorado River’s water in 1963 — even with emergency releases of water from reservoirs upstream. The Bureau of Reclamation announced Thursday that the lake elevation will soon drop below 3,555.1 feet above sea level, the record set in 2005, back near the start of a 20-year dry cycle plaguing the Colorado River Basin.

Opinion: Will the Drought Contingency Plan Be Enough to Save Lake Mead? Maybe – For Now

Lake Mead is disappearing. It has already fallen more than 146 feet since 2000.

Last week the Bureau of Reclamation forecast that it will likely drop another 42 feet in the next five years, drawing the lake surface down to a level barely sufficient to generate power and release water for downstream water users in California and Arizona.

Bureau Blocks Water Transfer to Help Save SJ Valley Farmers

Farmers on the western edge of the parched San Joaquin Valley have little or no ground water resources this year. The South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District have legal rights to 200,000 acre feet of water sitting behind New Melones Reservoir beyond this year’s needs of the farms and urban customers they serve. The two districts want to help the farmers who will face a difficult choice: Let tens of thousands of acres of productive orchards die and leave cropland fallow or else accelerate groundwater pumping to exacerbate dropping aquifers the State of California has identified as a pressing issue.

Final Plan for Water Releases Into Sacramento River Could Kill Up to 88% of Endangered Salmon Run

The California water board has approved a plan for water releases into the Sacramento River that could kill off an entire run of endangered chinook salmon and put at risk another population that is part of the commercial salmon fishery.

The State Water Resources Control Board has informed the federal Bureau of Reclamation it would accept its final plan for managing water flows from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River, which is both the main source of water for Central Valley farms and the spawning habitat for chinook salmon. Because the bureau’s plan involves releasing water to irrigation districts earlier in the season, the river will be lower and warmer during salmon spawning season and could result in killing as many as 88% of endangered winter-run chinook eggs and young fish.