In a further sign of the easing of California’s drought, farms and cities that rely on the State Water Project learned Thursday that they will receive an estimated 45 percent of what they requested this year.
Just three weeks ago, the SWP’s estimated allocation for 2016 was 30 percent. The allocation for 2015 was 20 percent.
The state Department of Water Resources said the increased allocation reflects the healthy winter rains and snow, which have raised the project’s largest reservoir, at Oroville, to 5 percent above its historic average level for this time of year. Other key reservoirs, including San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, are still woefully low.
“February reminded us how quickly California’s weather can turn from wet to dry,” said DWR director Mark Cowin in a prepared statement.
A 45 percent allocation would be the highest since 2012, when customers got 65 percent. The project hasn’t delivered a 100 percent allocation in 10 years.
The SWP pumps billions of gallons of water to farms and cities in California, most of them in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The state project’s largest customer is the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves about 19 million urban residents.
The federal government’s Central Valley Project, which serves much of the San Joaquin Valley, hasn’t made an estimated allocation for 2016.