The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pledged another $5 million in drought relief funds to the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency, bringing the funds available to Klamath Project irrigators to $20 million, Reclamation said in an Oct. 5 news release.
Water supply has been unavailable to Klamath Project irrigators during the 2021 irrigation season.
"This devastatingly dry year has been difficult for everyone," Klamath Basin Area Office Acting Area Manager Jared Bottcher said in a news release. "We are pleased to make additional funding available to KPDRA to provide immediate relief to communities hit hard by drought conditions. We will pursue additional drought support for Klamath Basin communities as we progress towards long-term solutions for the Klamath Basin."
Reclamation said the initial $15 million in relief funding is scheduled to be distributed later this year.
The $20 million from Reclamation awarded to the KPDRA for drought relief is being supported by $15 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 2020-2021 water year was the driest ever recorded for several areas, including Northern California, the U.S. Drought Monitor said in its weekly report. Redding, for example, concluded the water year with 14.24 inches of precipitation recorded, breaking the previous record low of 19.38 inches in 1990-1991. The area's normal precipitation level is 33.52 inches. Red Bluff and the Sacramento Executive Airport also broke records, with 9.48 inches and 6.61 inches of precipitation in the water year, respectively.
The Pacific Northwest and Four Corners areas recorded above-normal precipitation for the Drought Monitor's Sept. 28 to Oct. 5 report week. The areas also had cooler-than-normal temperatures.
Drought conditions improved in portions of the West, including some sections of northwest Colorado into eastern Utah that had been under extreme drought, as was western New Mexico. Moderate drought conditions improved in central New Mexico and exceptional drought conditions improved from northeast Washington into northern Idaho.
Areas in which drought expanded included southern Montana into northern Wyoming, western Montana, and portions of southwest and southern Colorado, which saw moderate and severe drought conditions expand.
Low water storage levels at major reservoirs continue to be closely monitored. Lake Powell is at 30 percent of capacity, according to Reclamation's Oct. 4 report.
The full Lower Colorado River system is at 38 percent of capacity, with 22,920 thousand acre-feet of water.
Of the reservoirs that Reclamation operates in the western U.S., six had the lowest observed storage levels in the past 30 years of data collection as of either Oct. 1 or 2, including Lake Mead-Hoover Dam; Lake Powell-Glen Canyon Dam; Shasta Lake-Shasta Dam; Blue Mesa Dam and Reservoir; Guernsey Dam and Reservoir; and Canyon Ferry Lake and Dam in Montana.
Salt River Project storage was at 73 percent of capacity as of Oct. 7, with roughly 1.46 million acre-feet of water stored in the system, according to SRP's daily report.
Lake Oroville is at an elevation of 629.25 feet as of Oct. 5, with 791,010 acre-feet of water in storage, which is 22 percent of capacity and 36 percent of average.
Roughly 57.5 million people in the western U.S. now live in drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor.