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California Cuts Farmers’ Water Supply

Some farmers and contractors in California will see their water supply cut this year because of an unusually dry winter.

Following a wet start to the water year in November and December 2012, the January to March period is tracking to be California’s driest on record, according to the US Department of the Interior.

On Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced agricultural contractors on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley will only receive 20 percent of requested water deliveries, a 5 percent decrease from the allocation announced last month. Municipal and industrial water contractors will also see a 5 percent decrease, receiving a water allocation of 70 percent.

The California Department of Water Resources has also decreased this year’s water delivery estimate, from 40 to 35 percent of requested State Water Project water deliveries. In addition to dry weather conditions, pumping restrictions this winter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect salmon and Delta smelt also limit the DWR’s ability meet requests for State Water Project supplies, the department says.

California normally receives more than 90 percent of its rain and snow from December through April, according to DWR.

Kevin Kester, a past president of the California Cattlemen’s Association, told Capital Public Radio that about two-thirds of the state is dealing with less than half of the average rainfall and it’s hitting ranchers in Southern California especially hard. Cattle and calves are the state’s fifth leading commodity.

Meanwhile the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “mixed bag” of drought, flooding and warm weather for spring in its three-month outlook. The Red River of the North between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, and the Souris River in North Dakota have the potential for moderate and major flooding, it says. Additionally, Devils and Stump Lakes in northeast North Dakota have a 50 percent chance of rising about 2 feet, which would flood 20,000 acres of farmland and roadways.

Late-season snow melt may cause minor to moderate flooding in the upper Mississippi River basin, including southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Missouri, NOAA says. Areas along the middle Mississippi, lower Missouri and Ohio River basins have already experienced minor flooding this year and the threat of minor flooding will continue through the spring. These basins include portions of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, eastern Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Minor flooding also is possible for the lower Mississippi River basin and in the Southeast, including portions of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.

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