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The Central Valley Project (CVP)

static image of a collage of the central valley projectWhen asked what a newcomer should know about California, noted western writer Wallace Stegner answered with four words:

static text image reading: Water.  It's about the water.

Early settlers were attracted to California's mild climate, abundant natural resources, and scenic beauty. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a reliable water supply; the State's arid conditions and unreliable precipitation made it difficult for farmers to grow crops. By the turn of the 20th century, it was evident California not only needed a special system for water storage and delivery, but also for protection from periodic floods.

The Central Valley Project (CVP) was originally conceived as a State project to protect the Central Valley from crippling water shortages and devastating floods. The basic concept and facilities of today's massive project were included in the State Water Project formulated in the 1930's. In the depression era, however, the State was unable to finance the project. Most of the water development envisioned by the State was accomplished by the Federal CVP, beginning with its initial authorization in 1935.

Work began in 1937 with the Contra Costa Canal which began delivering water in 1940. The next facility built was Shasta Dam, the keystone of the project. Work on the dam began in 1938, and water storage started even before its completion in 1945. Congress subsequently passed 13 separate measures to authorize the development of other major project facilities over the next 3 decades. The final dam, New Melones, was completed in 1979.

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Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region
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Last update: August 2, 2011

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