California Water Crisis

2016 Action Timeline

These Are The Facts We Know So Far…

March 31, 2016:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approves the Bureau of Reclamation’s Temperature Management Plan for Shasta Lake.

Enough cold water must be kept in the lake to release at the end of October for winter-run Chinook salmon. The plan would have allowed daily releases of 9,000 CFS in June, 10,500 CFS in July and 10,000 CFS in August.

April 1, 2016:

Based on NMFS’ approval of the Bureau’s Temp Plan, the Bureau announces water allocations of five percent of contracted amounts for west side ag districts, 55 percent for municipal clients and 100 percent each for wildlife refuges, below delta exchange contractors, above delta Sacramento Valley diverters and Sacramento Valley Settlement Contractors.

Mid-April, 2016:

Shasta fills to near capacity of 4.3 MAF, and Folsom fills to 850,000 AF.

April thru May, 2016:

The Bureau only runs one pump out of six available in its Jones Pumping Plant near Tracy, CA. One pump moves 800-1,000 CFS of water per day.

May 2, 2016:

NMFS rejects the original Temp Plan as early lake temperatures come in warmer than predicted. NMFS states it will reduce Shasta releases to 8,000 CFS all summer. The Bureau and NMFS enter negotiations for a new plan.

Month of June, 2016:

Because there is no temperature plan in place, NMFS keeps Shasta releases to 7,400 CFS. Bureau quickly begins falling behind in filling San Luis Reservoir, which is used to meet its south-of-delta obligations.

June thru July, 2016:

A “king tide” creates salinity issues in the delta, forcing the Bureau and state Department of Water Resources (DWR) to push 8,000 to 12,000 CFS per day to the ocean through releases from Folsom and Oroville. Typically, the agencies would have to move 7,500 CFS through the delta for salinity.

Mid-June, 2016:

There is no water in the San Luis Reservoir and the Bureau is forced to borrow 270,000 AF from federal contractors who had stored water there from previous years or who had purchased water from third parties and stored it in San Luis. That water is used to meet the Bureau’s April allocations, but only lasts until mid July.

June 28, 2016:

The NMFS agrees to a second Temp Plan that allows for releases of 9,000 CFS in June (but June had passed), 10,500 CFS in July and 10,000 CFS in August.

July 6, 2016:

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is forced to tap its emergency supplies at Anderson Reservoir to blend with water out of San Luis because the San Luis water had become fetid as lake levels dropped dramatically. Santa Clara has used 12,000 AF of its emergency supplies to date.

July 15, 2016:

The Bureau is again out of water in San Luis, so it asks for help from all contractors including those on the State Water Project.

The Bureau inks a deal to borrow 12,000 AF from Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, a Friant contractor,* and exchanges 45,000 AF of federal water from Millerton with the Kern County Water Agency, a state contractor.

The Bureau also borrows 38,000 AF from DWR, but it needs approval from the State Water Resources Control Board to make those trades.

July 21, 2016:

The Bureau doesn’t get approval and sends shutoff notices to 26 water districts alerting them pumping would cease in three days.

July 22, 2016:

Shutoff is narrowly avoided after an all-night session between the Bureau and Water Board employees results in the needed approvals.

July 22, 2016:

The Bureau approves an increase in allocations to contractors on the Friant side of the CVP, which takes water from Millerton. This action ignites a firestorm of criticism from other federal contractors who were still in danger of being shut off.

July 22, 2016:

Westland’s Water District agrees to take 40,000 AF of water it had purchased and stored in San Luis as an emergency stash, rather than what was promised by the Bureau in April. It also gives 5,000 AF from that emergency stash to San Luis Water District.

July 25, 2016:

The Bureau borrows another 10,000 AF from the Fresno Irrigation District and the City of Fresno and sends it down the San Joaquin River from Millerton for west side ag contractors.

August 1, 2016:

The Bureau borrows another 5,000 AF from a Friant district to send down the San Joaquin from Millerton for west side contractors. Total borrowed, not including the Westland’s water thus far is: 380,000 AF.

August 1, 2016:

At 205,000 AF, the San Luis Reservoir is lower even than it was in 1976-77, one of the driest years on record.

August 10, 2016:

The NMFS agrees to keep Shasta releases to 10,500 CFS daily through August rather than dropping down to 10,000 CFS as planned.

The Harsh Realities Of These Actions

There are no certain plans for how the Bureau will repay the 380,000 AF it borrowed.

West side federal contractors believe the debt should be paid out of Millerton. Meanwhile, Friant division contractors (which include several districts in Kern County) believe the water should be repaid through increased pumping out of the Jones facility this fall.

Either way, all sides are hoping this debt doesn’t reach into the 2017 water year.

Please join us in our efforts to STOP WATER MISMANAGEMENT IN CALIFORNIA and click on the link below to read, sign and share our powerful petition! 


The Ocean Doesn’t Need More Water, We Do.

Stop Sending California Water Out to Sea!

The source for this timeline was originated by Lois Henry in an op-ed article featured on, click here to view it in it’s entirety.