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California water agencies to receive only 15% of requested aqueduct water

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(The Center Square) – California’s urban and agricultural water agencies will receive only 15% of requested 2024 allocations from the state water project, the aqueduct spanning the state on a north-south axis. Despite the low figure, this still represents a 50% increase from the earlier allocation of 10% before the most recent rains. Given the abundant recent rain, critics say lack of water storage is to blame for the low overall allocation.

“California water managers announced they’re sharply limiting deliveries to just 15% of what most urban and agricultural water agencies requested,” said Congressman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, in a statement. “This comes after 20,000 cubic feet of water per second poured into the ocean because of inadequate storage.”

California has already surpassed its annual rainfall average as a number of “atmospheric rivers” doused the state with rain. The state’s largest reservoirs are at 70% overall capacity, and 118% of typical water levels for this time of year. However, the state has not built a new reservoir with over one million acre-feet of water storage since 1978 despite the state’s population doubling since then.

Due to further anticipated rain, water is occasionally released from dams to ensure there is enough dam capacity to mitigate any potential flooding. Despite its reputation as an arid state, before the construction of the state’s dam and levee system, California was subject to significant turmoil and even deaths from frequent flooding.

While the state’s dams have both protected humans from flooding and enabled the increases in agricultural output that have made the state the nation’s breadbasket, downstream environmental effects have been substantial. Salmon populations, which are responsible for much of the natural fertility of the state’s soils, have plummeted as a result of damming, leading California Governor Gavin Newsom to undertake the Klamath River dam removal project — the largest dam removal project in the nation’s history.

“Today we celebrate a historic victory for the health of the Klamath River and the well-being of all the communities, livelihoods and ecosystems that depend on this vital waterway,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement celebrating the project’s funding. “We also celebrate the resilience and tenacity of the many partners who have advanced a powerful shared vision for this effort over 15 years to bring us to this moment.”

However, some state leaders say state funding of the dam removal makes little sense given that corporate operators of dam power generators made profit for generations but are not paying for the dam removal themselves.

“Pacificorp, the owners of the power plants on those dams, sold power and made money and now the taxpayers are paying the bill to tear it down. That would have been their responsibility,” said State Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, to The Center Square.