Based on operational modeling, the plan's authors said, "It has been relatively wet recently—more precipitation has occurred than projected," suggesting allocations for water contractors could be further reviewed.
Between April 1 and 10, about 75,000 acre-feet was added to storage in San Luis Reservoir, and the reservoir stood at 51 percent of its historical average for the date. Among other key reservoirs, Shasta had reached 62 percent of average; Oroville, 65 percent; New Melones, 68 percent; while both Folsom and Don Pedro stood at 75 percent.
Merkley said late-season storms have added to the amount of water in storage, but the parsing of small increments of water and the uncertainties created by unreliable or non-existent supplies is highly disruptive to the state's food production systems.
"It remains clear that increased water storage capacity is urgently needed if California is to protect its residents, its environment and its economy from the shocks of drought and flood," Merkley said. "The drought operations plan may address immediate needs and legal requirements, but the state's economy cannot operate effectively if water supplies lurch from one extreme to the other."
Another concern addressed in the emergency plan is the amount of water needed to control saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a concern for delta farmers.
State and federal agencies said they continue to review the possibility of installing temporary rock barriers across three delta waterways. The agencies said with barriers in place, releases from Shasta, Oroville and other reservoirs would repel saltwater and protect the delta.
If the option is exercised, barriers would be completed by early June, but officials said they will delay a decision as long as possible.
Meanwhile, efforts continue to pass federal legislation to fund water storage and offset some of the economic hardships caused by the drought. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has modified her California Emergency Drought Relief Act, saying that to address Republican concerns, she had trimmed about $300 million in spending from the proposed legislation. Feinstein said she needs 60 votes to move the bill through the Senate.
Pointing to estimates of land fallowing and agricultural job losses caused by water shortages, Feinstein said food prices across the U.S. will increase.
"This is an emergency, and this bill deserves a vote," she said.
The complete Central Valley Project and State Water Project Drought Operations Plan and Operational Forecast is online at http://ca.gov/drought/2014-Operations-Plan.pdf