California

California increases water allocation to farms, cities

Houseboats sit in the lowered waters of Lake Oroville in October 2014. The reservoir, the largest in the State Water Project, is at 51 percent of capacity.
Houseboats sit in the lowered waters of Lake Oroville in October 2014. The reservoir, the largest in the State Water Project, is at 51 percent of capacity. Associated Press file

In an encouraging note for California’s farms and cities, the State Water Project has doubled the amount of water it expects to deliver this year.

The Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday that the State Water Project will increase its allocation to an estimated 30 percent of what’s been requested by the project’s customers. A month ago, the allocation was pegged at 15 percent.

“Today’s increase, although good news, does not mean the drought is ending,” said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, in a prepared statement. “After more than four dry years, we still have a critical water shortage. We need a lot more wet weather this winter to take the edge off (the) drought.”

A 30 percent allocation would be the highest since 2013. Last year’s allocation came in at 20 percent.

The department said the allocation for this year would have been raised even more if not for “a remarkably dry February.” The comparative lack of rainfall this month has been “a stark reminder of how quickly California can turn from wet to dry.”

The State Water Project delivers water supplies to agencies serving 25 million Californians and nearly 1 million acres of farmland. Its largest customers include the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The project’s main reservoir, Lake Oroville, was about half full Wednesday and at 74 percent of its historical average for this time of year.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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