California Department of Water Resources (DWR) | December 31st, 2021
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has authority under state law to construct, operate, and maintain the State Water Project (SWP) to manage, store and de
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has authority under state law to construct, operate, and maintain the State Water Project (SWP) to manage, store and deliver water for the benefit of the State. This report is intended to provide information about the key factors affecting the operation of the SWP in California, its long-term capability as a source of water for beneficial use, and an estimate of its current delivery capability. This report meets the requirements of Attachment B to the Monterey Plus Settlement Agreement of May 2003.
Water provided by the SWP is a major source of the water supplies available to many SWP contractors. SWP contractors consist of 29 public entities that include cities, counties, urban water agencies, and agricultural irrigation districts. SWP contractors’ local/-regional water users have long-term contracts with the DWR for all, or a portion of their water supply needs. Thus, the delivery capability of water from the SWP system is an important component in the water supply planning of its recipients, and ultimately affects the amount of water available for beneficial use in California.
The availability of these water supplies may be highly variable. A sequence of relatively wet water years1 may be followed by a varying sequence of dry or critically dry years. Having good and reliable estimates on how much water each contractor will receive each year —- whether it be a wet water year, a critical year, or somewhere in between -- gives contractors a better sense of the degree to which they may need to implement increased conservation measures, or plan for new facilities or back up sources of water to meet their needs.
The geography of California and the infrastructure of water transfer from the source areas, located in the Sierra Mountain Range, to areas of demand for water, makes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta a key feature of the SWP’s ability to deliver water to its agricultural and urban contractors in the North Bay, the South Bay, California Central Valley, and Southern California. All but five of the 29 SWP contractors receive water deliveries by diversions from the Delta. These water diversions are pumped by either the Harvey O. Banks or Barker Slough pumping plants.
DWR and the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), the managing entities of the two statewide systems of water transfer in California, face numerous challenges in the operation of their diversion facilities in the Delta, and are regulated by several state and federal agencies to maintain, and enhance the Delta’s long-term sustainability.
Maintaining suitable quality of water flowing in the channels of the Delta for the numerous in-basin beneficial uses, and the protection of endangered and threatened fish species are important factors of concern for the operators of the Delta export diversion facilities. Ongoing regulatory restrictions, such as those aimed at protecting the estuary’s resident and migratory fish species, are major challenges to a reliable and sustainable water delivery capability of both, SWP and the Central Valley Project (CVP) systems.
Complications induced by climate change also pose the threat of increased variability in the frequency and magnitude of floods and droughts. The projected sea level rise caused by the increase in average temperature complicate efforts to manage salinity levels in the channels affected by tides. Additionally, higher ocean levels could result in more frequent water quality degradation in the Delta channels requiring additional Delta outflow to maintain water quality objectives. The 2021 Final Main Report (released at the end of March 2022) may include further information on climate change. Previously, the climate change scenario results were only discussed and presented in the Technical Addendum which is not published during the draft phase of the Delivery Capability Report (DCR).
Other challenges include continued subsidence of Delta islands, many of which are already below sea level and supported by relatively unstable levee systems. Thus, the threat of a catastrophic levee failure becomes more significant as water pressure increases against the already fragile levees.
The analyses in this report factor in all the current regulations governing SWP and CVP operations in the Delta and assumptions about water uses upstream in the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River watersheds. Analyses were conducted that determined the amounts of water that SWP contractors receive and the amounts of water they choose to hold for use in a subsequent year.
SWP Delta exports have decreased since 2005, although the bulk of the change occurred between 2005 and 2009 and in 2019. The former reduction is due to the Delta regulations which constrained exports that culminated in the federal Biological Opinions (BiOps) which went into effect in 2008-2009. These BiOps restricted operations of the CVP and SWP diversion pumps. The later reduction is due to two main factors: 1) the amended Coordinated Operation Agreement (COA) with accompanying project operation changes which reduced SWP exports and increased CVP exports, and (2) a more conservative operation of Lake Oroville by the SWP.
Many of the same assumptions on SWP operations described in the 2019 Report remains the same in this update for 2021, however, there were a few notable changes. These include the transition from CalSim II to CalSim 3 and CVP and SWP operational refinements. As a result, the differences between the 2019 and 2021 Reports can be attributed primarily to differences in hydrology, spatial and temporal expansion, more explicit groundwater and surface water interaction representation, and operational refinements.
The most salient findings in this report are:
Under existing conditions, the estimated average annual delivery of Table A water for this 2021 Report is 2,309 thousand acre-feet (TAF)/year, 105 TAF less than the 2,414 TAF/year estimated for the 2019 Report (Table 5-2).
The likelihood of existing condition SWP Article 21 deliveries (supplemental deliveries to Table A water) being greater than 20 TAF/year has decreased by 20% relative to the likelihood presented in the 2019 Report (Figure 5-7).