California — Water To Spare in 2017

In 2017, the California drought is over, or at least it will be.

That statement is based on something only water geeks understand.  Article 21 water is likely to be available.

In short, Article 21 water is surplus water available to organizations and agencies that have contracts with the State Water Project to import water to augment their local supplies.  In wet years, when there is more than enough water to meet the contracted water demands statewide, the State Water Project (SWP) makes any surplus available to contractors according to Article 21 of the contracts.

Here is an excerpt from the January 25, 2017 statement from SWP:

“Due to the current water conditions and storage in San Luis Reservoir, it is likely that Article 21 water may become available south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during 2017.  Should Article 21 water become available in 2017, the 2017 Program will be administered similarly to 2011 with minor modifications to facilitate communication of Article 21 availability and any related carryover spill accounting.”
The statement describes the rules for Article 21 water availability.  In many, if not most cases, Article 21 water is used to augment natural groundwater recharge, storing water for later use.  In some cases, it is stored in surface storage reservoirs.
The trick is to find a storage location where and when the Article 21 water is available.  That availability is somewhat limited by where the water is in the state that year and SWP’s and local agencies’ conveyance facilities (eg, canals, pipelines).  Sometimes, those facilities just aren’t big enough.  In recent years, various agreements among water agencies have allowed water to be stored in one area for later use in other areas.  That trend is likely to continue until all or most of the Article 21 water is used in future years, simply because water is being more highly managed to serve California’s growing population while meeting environmental demands.
One example of innovative use of Article 21 water is Irvine Ranch Water District’s Water Banking program, using groundwater storage in the San Joaquin Valley to increase water supply reliability for its customers in Orange County, 150 miles to the south.
Enjoy the surplus water while it’s here.  Next year could be dry again–after all, this is California.