Farmers in a West Side water district once again face a curtailed water supply in 2018.

The respite of 2017, when growers in federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water District enjoyed a full water allocation after several years of receiving little to no deliveries through the Central Valley Project, was short-lived.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation announced last week that south-of-the-delta users such as Del Puerto will receive 20 percent of their full contract allocation this year. That allocation could be revised upward if conditions improve.

Not all agencies are in similar straits.

The Central California Irrigation District, which includes ag land surrounding Newman and Gustine, is still anticipating a 100 percent water allocation, its growers were advised last week.

However, the update posted on the CCID website also cautioned growers that continuing dry conditions could lead the bureau to declare a “critical” water year, which would reduce the 2018 water supply by 25 percent.

The CCID position is a credit to the district’s strong water rights.

Others - including Del Puerto - have lesser water rights.

Nonetheless, Del Puerto General Manager Anthea Hansen said, she had anticipated a more generous initial allocation.

“I was a little surprised,” Hansen told Mattos Newspapers. “We had been hoping for, and continue to hope for, a 30-35 percent allocation.”

A 20 percent allocation equates to six inches of water for each of the district’s approximately 44,000 irrigable acres, she noted.

In addition, a new recycled water program is expected to bring in another three inches per acre this year, Hansen said.

But, she added, “clearly that is not enough.”

Almonds, a popular crop in the district, require three and a half to four acre-feet of water each year, Hansen said by way of example.

The district has reached agreements with various parties to purchase supplemental water on the open market, she explained, and in that regard is better-positioned to deal with the shortfall than in 2014 and 2015, when water at any price was in short supply.

“The district is confident that we will be able to provide enough water to meet everybody’s needs. The issue will be the cost of that water. It will result in increased costs,” Hansen stated.

She expects that some row crop land will be fallowed as a result.

“I don’t think that some of the field crop commodity prices can support the higher water costs,” Hansen explained.

February saw an increased demand for water. Hansen said that was due in part to the dry conditions, but said growers were also drawing down carryover water supplies that they risk losing in the water year ahead.

“We have been advised that our carryover is capped,” she commented.

The Bureau of Reclamation said a number of factors were involved in calculating the initial allocation.

As of Feb. 20, a bureau news release stated, the statewide average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada was 20 percent of the historical average, while rainfall was at approximately 60 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.

“Despite the historic rainfall last year, California’s lack of sufficient water storage forces us to operate on a year-to-year basis. The amount we can store in our reservoirs is not enough to get us through these very dry years,” said David Murillo, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific regional director. “Given what we know today, and what we see in the forecast, we must be very conservative with our allocation. If this lack of rain and snow continues, we could very well be right back in drought operations. A situation like this underscores the need for more storage in California.”

The experiences of previous water-short year years, and steps taken in preparation for that scenario to repeat itself, have positioned Del Puerto to deal with the shortfall.

“We have been able to plan for this,” Hansen reflected. “We know how to do this.”