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Before the State could fully recover from the 2012-16 drought, we are once again experiencing the second year of another drought.  On May 10, 2021 Governor Newsom extended the state of emergency for drought conditions to a total 41 counties, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  This page summarizes existing water supply and quality conditions in the Delta system, disclosure of when any of the seven water quality monitoring locations are not in compliance with salinity criteria in the 1981 NDWA-DWR Contract, drought actions being implemented by NDWA or state agencies, and hyperlinks to online sources of drought information (reports, notices, curtailment notices, temporary urgency change petitions, etc.) 



SWRCB Orders Diversion Curtailment and Compliance Reporting - In  response to ongoing drought conditions and associated water supply shortages in the Delta watershed, on August 3, 2021, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation authorizing the curtailment of diversions in the Delta watershed.  This emergency regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law and went into effect on August 19, 2021.  The SWRCB is hosting an online public workshop on August 

Salinity Exceedances at Three Mile Slough and Rio Vista - The 1981 NDWA-DWR Contract contains water quality criteria that must be met year-round at seven locations in the North Delta  (North Fork of Mokelumne  River near Walnut Grove; Mokelumne  River at Terminus/Staten Island; Sacramento River at Walnut Grove;  Sacramento River at Rio Vista;  Sacramento River at Three Mile Slough;  San Joaquin River at San Andreas Landing; Steamboat Slough at Sutter Slough) .  The NDWA has notified DWR that the 14-day  mean EC (Electrical Conductivity) has exceeded the 1981 Contract Criteria at both the Three Mile Slough and Rio Vista monitoring locations since June 28, 2021 , and requested that DWR indicate what actions the department will take to regain compliance.  The salinity levels at the other five monitoring locations continue to be in compliance with Contract Criteria.  Although the 14-day mean EC is above the Contract Criteria at Three Mile Slough and Rio Vista, the mean daily values at these locations have been below the criteria since about the first of July.  Because real time conditions at all seven monitoring locations fluctuates with the tides; growers and irrigators should monitor conditions near their diversion points.  Since July 9, 2021 the water quality (salinity levels) have been in compliance with Contract criteria at all seven monitoring locations.

SWRCB Notice of Water Unavailability
On June 15, 2021, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) sent out a Notice of Water Unavailability (Notice) to Post-1914 Water Right Holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed (Delta) , including those within the North Delta Water Agency (NDWA).  The Notice, which is solely informational, states there is insufficient water to support diversions under all post-1914 appropriative water rights and requires these post-1914 water right holders to document receipt of the Notice within seven (7) days  by completing an online Water Unavailability Certification Form (Form), which allows you to identify the 1981 NDWA Contract as your alternative water supply source for diversion.  The Notice is NOT an order by the SWRCB to immediately stop diverting, but serves an advisory warning about serious conditions and a  precursor to the SWRCB sending out future curtailment notice (order to cease and desist water diversion) due to the current water unavailability conditions in the Delta watershed.  According to a SWRCB Media Release, the water unavailability for Post-1914 Water Right Holders is likely to remain in place until winter rains return natural flows.  In addition, the June 15 Notice also warns of potential future water unavailability for  senior water rights (pre-1914 and riparian claims) in the near future.  It is important for NDWA water users to understand you have the right to continue diverting pursuant to the 1981 NDWA Contract, regardless of the water right you have, but you MUST still complete and submit the Water Unavailability Certification Form identifying the right to continue diverting under a senior claim of right and/or the NDWA Contract.  To stay informed and receive future Notices from the SWRCB, including orders to immediately curtail water diversions, you can subscribe to the water board's Delta Drought List.   

2012-2016 DROUGHT

​As explained in a July 8, 2015 MBK memo, NDWA has officially notified DWR that salinity levels  have exceeded the 1981 Contract Criteria at the Three Mile Slough monitoring location since July 5, 2015, and requested DWR indicate what actions the department will take to regain compliance.   All  other monitoring locations specified in the Contract continue to be in compliance.  To improve water quality conditions at Three Mile Slough, DWR modified State Water Project operations on July 7, 2015 to increase water releases from Oroville reservoir from 3,000 cfs to 3,250 cfs and decrease exports from the Delta to minimum human health and safety standards.  In addition, DWR indicated that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also intends to increase releases from Folsom Dam, but will keep the Delta Cross Channel gates open for recreation and to maintain water quality in the interior Delta channels.  Despite these recent water project operational changes, the salinity levels in the Sacramento River continue to exceed the Contract Criteria at the Three Mile Slough location; therefore, the Agency is currently working with DWR on establishing a claims process to pay compensation to landowners for crop damage resulting from any exceedances of Contract Criteria. 

Due to extreme fluctuations and spikes in salinity that can occur, we continue to advise all water users to monitor the daily and hourly fluctuations in salinity levels on the CDEC website before diverting:



Preliminary Water Shortage Notices Issued - On March 22, 2021 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) sent Preliminary Notices to water rights holders to provide early warning of potential water shortages if dry conditions persist in California; urging them to reduce water usage and implement water conservation measures.

Water Unavailability Notice Issued - On June 15, 2021 the SWRCB sent water rights holders in the Sacramento Delta watershed a Notice of Water Unavailability for Post-1914 appropriative water rights.  This Notice is solely informational and not an order to cease diversions (curtailment), but it is intended to emphasize the dire drought conditions that currently exist and notify water users that the SWRCB is in the process of developing curtailment orders through emergency regulations as the next step.  Water users are requested to fill out a SWRCB Certification Form to indicate if water user has an additional water source available, such as the right to continue diverting under the provisions of the 1981 NDWA-DWR Contract. The Notice also includes a warning of water availability likely to be declared later in the summer for both Pre-1914 water rights and riparian claimants.  Regardless of the underlying water rights on properties within the NDWA jurisdiction, all water users in NDWA are allowed to continue diverting pursuant to the 1981 Contract under this SWRCB Notice and any future curtailment orders approved by the SWRCB.  However, because of the existence of water unavailability in the system, all water users should judicious in irrigation practices and conserve whenever possible.

​2012-16 DROUGHT

Curtailment Orders Rescinded - A legal challenge by agencies in the South Delta has resulted in the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) rescinding previous diversion curtailment orders issued  in April, May, and June on post-1914 and pre-1914 (1903 and after only) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watersheds.  To comply with judges decision, the water board issued new "informational" curtailment notices that clarify that water users no longer have to cease diversions or fill out Curtailment Certification Form as previously directed, but warned  the the legal ruling also confirmed the SWRCB still has the statutory authority to apply significant penalties for diversions in these watersheds if they provide proper due process by first inspecting water diversion, issuing cease and desist order, and rendering decision after holding a public hearing. 

Riparian Diversions - The SWRCB Executive Director, Tom Howard issued a letter on June 16, 2015 to clarify riparian water users can still continue to divert, however the water board's website says that the curtailment of riparian water rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watersheds and Delta is currently under review.  NDWA water users who receive curtailment notices may continue to divert water without being charged with illegal water use by the SWRCB pursuant to assurances provided in the 1981 Contract with DWR (see NDWA memo to landowners). 

***To receive immediate emails from SWRCB about curtailment notices sign up for their"Drought Updates" by clicking here.***



DWR Applies for Barrier Permit - The SWRCB conditionally approved a Section 401 permit for the construction of a temporary urgency drought barrier on the West False River​.  Construction started on June 3, 2021 and was completed 

2012-16 DROUGHT

The CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced in April 2014 that the two temporary emergency drought barriers  proposed in the North Delta at Sutter and Steamboat Sloughs are cancelled this year, but the department did continue with installation of a temporary barrier at West False River (WFR) location , completed in June.  Following website links offer additional information on temporary emergency drought barriers (EDB):



​TUCP for CVP/SWP Operations Conditionally Approved - On  June 1, 2021, the SWRCB conditionally approved a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) authorizing changes to obligations for maintaining Delta water quality objectives specified in D-1641 from June 1 thru August 15  in order to preserve reservoir carryover storage conditions going into next year, including moving salinity compliance from Emmaton location to Three Mile Slough.

​2012-16 DROUGHT

DWR provided a 2015 Drought Contingency Plan for SWP and CVP operations from January 15, 2015 through September 30, 2015 that were followed up with individual Temporary Urgency Change Petitions (TUCP) requesting additional modifications to the conditions on the SWP/CVP water rights licenses to meet Delta standards.  In response to the proposed Drought Plan, NDWA wrote a letter to DWR requesting language be added that recognizes the department must operate the State Water Project to maintain water quality obligations in the 1981 Contract and acknowledge the ongoing negotiations on terms and conditions for complying with the Contract if drought barriers are installed in Sutter and Steamboat Sloughs.

On July 3, 2015, SWRCB Executive Director Tom Howard approved the latest TUCP request submitted by DWR and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.   Ten days later, DWR notified SWRCB that the modified D-1641 salinity standard set at Jersey Point was being exceeded (violated) starting on July 9, 2015 (less than a week after Howard approved the relaxed D-1641 criteria in TUCP).  Ten days after SWRCB approves latest TUCP, DWR notified SWRCB of salinity criteria in modified D-1641 being exceeded at Jersey Point as of July 9, 2015. This location is NOT a violation of the NDWA Contract.


​​NDWA Hosts Informational Drought Briefing​ - The latest information on drought conditions and potential implementation of the emergency drought provision in the NDWA 1981 Contract will be discussed at a public online meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 9:30 am.  

Additional DWR Drought Documents

TUCPs Requesting Modification of SWP/CVP Operations to Meet Delta Standards

Drought Information and Resources

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