March Storms Prompt SWP to Boost Allocations

Season’s third upgrade since initial allocations set RDO-Water-California

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

With runoff from the March storms filling Northern California reservoirs, the state Department of Water Resources has upped its anticipated deliveries to State Water Project customers to 60 percent of requested supplies.

In all, the 29 agencies that receive SWP water will get a little more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the nearly 4.2 million acre-feet they sought in 2016, marking the state project’s largest allocation since 65 percent of normal supplies were sent to districts in 2012.

The upgrade announced April 21 was the season’s third since the DWR set its initial allocation at 15 percent in January, later raising it to 30 percent and 45 percent. It’s also likely to be the last upgrade for the year, department spokesman Ted Thomas said in an email.

“Never know what nature will do,” he said, “but in the absence of significant rain and snow, (it’s) doubtful if the allocation will increase.”

The new allocation comes as the U.S. Drought Monitor issued new maps showing improved conditions in much of California, as part of the Central Sierra and San Joaquin Valley emerged from the Exceptional Drought category — the most severe category of drought.

Much of the Sacramento Valley improved from extreme to severe or even moderate drought. However, a large swath of the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast remain in exceptional drought, according to the monitor.

Even with the wet winter in many places, state and federal officials caution anew that the drought is far from over. Cindy Matthews, a National Weather Service senior hydrologist, said in an email the D3, or extreme drought, classification still means an area is still within the worst 3 percent to 5 percent of droughts on record.

State officials said that while key reservoirs are rising from winter storms, some remain below average for this time of year. The San Luis Reservoir, a key storage body south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for both the SWP and federal Central Valley Project, is only at half its 2 million acre-foot capacity and 55 percent of its historical average, largely because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect imperiled fish, the DWR explained.

With an expected transition to La Nina oceanic conditions by next fall, the 2017 water year is too uncertain to abandon preparations for another dry year, officials said.

“Conservation is the surest and easiest way to stretch supplies,” DWR director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “We all need to make the sparing, wise use of water a daily habit.”

Full article shared from Capital Press.