California braces for 3rd year of drought

Lake Oroville
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On March 18, the California Department of Water ResourcesOpens in a new tab. announced that it must reduce the State Water Project allocation to 5 percent of requested supplies for 2022. The agency had set the allocation at 15 percent, but a historically dry January and February, with no significant storms forecast for this month, requires a reduction in the allocation to conserve available water supply.  The state will also provide any unmet critical health and safety needs of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive State Water Project supplies.

California drought poses a “climate change whiplash.”

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time, with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions. That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science,” said DWR Director Karla NemethOpens in a new tab.. “While we had hoped for more rain and snow, DWR has been preparing for a third consecutive year of drought since October. We are continuing with a series of actions to balance the needs of endangered species, water supply conservation, and water deliveries for millions of Californians.”

The State plans on increasing its storage in Lake Oroville and other reservoirs and urges water users to conserve.

The Department of Water Resources will make its next assessment of the State Water Project allocation following the next snow survey on April 1. A final allocation for the water year is typically announced in May or June.

Groundwater regulation and legal challenges.

Faced with surface water shortages, there is an increasing reliance on groundwater in the State.  The National Law ReviewOpens in a new tab. notes that, “While drought conditions placed significant stress on California’s water resources, groundwater regulation efforts under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) started to take full effect.”  Under the SGMA, local”Groundwater Sustainability Agencies” were formed to manage high and medium priority basins and to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (“GSPs”) to achieve basin sustainability within 20 years.   According to The National Law ReviewOpens in a new tab., “Among the 42 GSPs that have been submitted to DWR, at least four are being litigated in California Superior Courts.”  The Review anticipates more litigation to come.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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