Water content in California snowpack is only 17 percent of normal according to the California Department of Water Resources’ May 2 release (pdf). This means there will be a below average water supply this summer, which also impacts hydropower production for Western’s Sierra Nevada Region.
The water year, which began in October, started with some positive precipitation for the Central Valley Project. However California’s record-setting “dry” conditions in January, February and March have reduced the hydro conditions outlook for 2013.
See the most recent hydro conditions report for April 2013 (pdf).
The Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region announced Jan. 9 that it will hold a public workshop on the assumptions, modeling and methodology for determining hydropower benefits of the ongoing Cost Allocation Study for the Central Valley Project.
The workshop will be held:
Friday, Jan. 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Federal Building, 2800 Cottage Way
Cafeteria Conference Rooms C1001-C1002
Sacramento, CA 95825
If you’re interested in the methodology and model that will be used during the study, this meeting will be your opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. You can also find out more about the Central Valley Project Cost Allocation Study on Reclamation’s website.
The California Department of Water Resources announced the results from its fifth and final snowpack survey May 1. The survey confirmed the snowpack’s low water content, which will affect water and power deliveries in California this year.
Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 40 percent of normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which Western’s Central Valley Project relies on to fill reservoirs and generate hydropower, was 70 percent of normal for the northern Sierras, 35 percent of normal for the central Sierras and 20 percent of normal for the southern Sierras.
Last year’s snowpack water content state-wide was 190 percent of normal by this time, which will reduce the impact of the scarce snowpack this year.
“The impact of a below-normal water year has been somewhat mitigated by above-average reservoir storage levels due to unusually wet conditions during the 2010-2011 operating season,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketer Sonja Anderson.
However, operators of both the state and Federal water projects have already announced reduced water and power deliveries for the upcoming year, including from Western’s Central Valley Project.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced April 13 that it was going to be increasing its water supply allocation to Central Valley Project contractors as a result of improved snow pack conditions.
The revised projected deliveries are expected to increase both project use and net project generation, which means more hydropower to sell for Western’s Sierra Nevada region.
“The snow water content ranges from 81 percent of the April 1 average for the Northern Sierra to 32 percent for the Southern Sierra,” stated the press release.
The California Department of Water Resources announced that the results from the fourth of five surveys confirming below-normal water year conditions.
“An unusually wet March improved conditions, but did not make up for the previous dry months,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.
The average water content of California’s snowpack was still only 55 percent of the expected April 1 normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which Western’s Central Valley Project receives snowmelt, was 78 percent of April 1 normal for the northern Sierras, 55 percent of the April 1 normal for the central Sierras and 39 percent of the April 1 normal for the southern Sierras. At the same time last year, the snowpack water content showed 173 percent of the April 1 average for the northern Sierras, 161 percent in the central Sierras, and 155 percent for the southern Sierras.
Both the State and Federal water projects have announced reduced deliveries for the upcoming water year.
“The reduced water deliveries are expected to result in reduced hydropower generation output for the Central Valley and State Water Projects,” said Western’s Sierra Nevada Region Power Marketing Manager Sonja Anderson. “However, the impact of reduced water deliveries is somewhat mitigated by last year’s above-normal precipitation, which has resulted in higher than average starting reservoir storage levels.”
In February, the California legislature introduced Assembly Bill 1771 Renewable energy resources: hydroelectric generation, which, if enacted, would revise what size hydropower plant can contribute to an energy service provider’s renewable portfolio standard and how many megawatts can be counted.
Currently, only small hydropower plants qualify to be used as a renewable energy source under California’s 33-percent RPS requirement, and the maximum hydropower contribution is 30 megawatts.
If enacted in its present form, the hydropower plant size and megawatt limits would be eliminated, which could increase interest in Western’s Sierra Nevada region’s Central Valley Project. The CVP’s 11 hydropower plants produced 5,369 gigawatt-hours in Fiscal Year 2011 for preference power customers in California.
The bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard in committee March 22.
The California Department of Water Resources announced continuing dry winter conditions in its state-wide survey Feb. 1, which could impact the available water for Western’s Central Valley Project this summer.
“Water content in California’s mountain snowpack is far below normal for this time of year,” stated the department’s press release.
Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 37 percent of normal for this date. For the CVP area, the relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 26 percent of the April 1 seasonal average for the northern Sierras, 20 percent for the central Sierras and 25 percent for the southern Sierras.
January is typically one of the wettest months, but with a lack of winter storms, state water managers have begun to express concerns about the need for more rain and snow.
“So far, we just haven’t received a decent number of winter storms,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin.
“Because last year was such an above-normal water year, starting water storage levels for Federal and state storage reservoirs are relatively higher than normal,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketing Manager Sonja Anderson. This will help delay any affects to the power supply even if the snowpack doesn’t reach its average levels.
“As long as California receives normal to near normal precipitation levels for the rest of the water year, water and hydropower output for the Central Valley and state water projects would not be as detrimentally impacted as in past years,” said Anderson.
However, any reductions in the output of the Reclamation CVP power plants will raise the cost of Western’s CVP power to customers, which is marketed by the percent of hydropower available.