Water Worries: The burden placed on Western producers
It is now up to the Federal Government to decide how to allocate water resources from the Colorado River Basin.
The seven states impacted were asked to come up with a new agreement with historic water low water levels in mind, but they could not come to an understanding. Six out of the seven states said California should make the cuts, but the Golden State argued that its water use was for agricultural purposes. The Bureau of Reclamation is expected to release its decision this spring, which has left many farmers worried about potential cuts.
Recent downpours have come as a blessing for farmers in California, but NASA says its unlikely that it will reverse the region’s decades long decline in water reserves.
Here is a comparison of Lake Oroville that NASA Earth shared on Twitter.
These #Landsat images show how the rain replenished the two largest reservoirs in California: Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville.— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) February 13, 2023
However, the precipitation is likely insufficient to reverse the long-term groundwater depletion according to research by @nasagoddard scientists. pic.twitter.com/amimtaB0H1
On the left, its what the body of water looked like on November 19th of last year, 36 percent at capacity. On the right, its what the lake looked like last month, being at 64 percent capacity, which is 111 percent of the historical average. But one scientist says this is the same case as in 2017. The excess water helps recharge the reserves, but then a hot and drought filled summer takes the resources away from producers.
Groundwater levels are running dry along the Klamath Basin and many think it is unlikely the Oregon Water Resources Department will step in.
Irrigators hope the department issues emergency drought permits, which would allow farmers to temporarily replace water from another source, such as a groundwater pump. But the department says the Klamath aquifer has been over appropriated and they do not want to exacerbate the situation. The Klamath Basin serves 200,000 acres of farmland in southern Oregon and northern California.