The federal and state water projects told water users in California today to expect only a fraction of their normal contracted amounts.


“For farmers and their employees, this is like a nightmare that you can’t wake up from,” Paul Wenger, a Modesto walnut grower and president of the California Farm Bureau, said in a news release. “What makes it worse is that, unlike previous years, these low allocations come at a time when snowpack levels stand near average and our reservoirs are refilling.”


The federal Central Valley Project warned agricutlural customers both north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta they could see allocations as low as 5 percent under the most conservative scenarios. The State Water Project raised its projected water deliveries to 15 percent.


Federal officials say CVP allocations could reach 30 percent for farmers south of the delta and 100 percent for those to the north, if precipitation remains at least average this winter. They also say they would pursue additional measures to supply another 8 percent to 10 percent of supplies for farm customers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, where water shortages have been most severe.


Wenger says the announcements leave farm customers uncertain as they plan their 2010 crops.


“Farmers and ranchers will do their best to make the most of the water they have,” Wenger says, “but the inevitable results of chronic water shortages will be idle land, loss of jobs and reduction of locally grown food supplies that Californians depend upon.”