Water & Drought

California raises 2016 water allocation to 15 percent

Houseboats sit in drought-ravaged Lake Oroville last February. With the lake just 39 percent full, state officials are cautious about increasing deliveries to customers of the State Water Project.
Houseboats sit in drought-ravaged Lake Oroville last February. With the lake just 39 percent full, state officials are cautious about increasing deliveries to customers of the State Water Project. AP

The farmers and cities that rely on the California State Water Project got some slightly encouraging news Tuesday – the state is raising their water allocation to 15 percent of what they requested.

Reflecting the stormy weather California has seen so far this winter, the Department of Water Resources said it was increasing the allocation to 15 percent, up from the previously announced 10 percent. That’s still lower than the 20 percent the State Water Project delivered last year.

Deliveries could further increase if El Niño continues to deliver rain and snow, the state said. The National Weather Service said wet weather is expected to hit the Sacramento area late Thursday and continue through the weekend.

“Our modest increase underscores the fact that we still have a critical water shortage after four-plus years of drought that we don’t know when will end,” said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, in a prepared statement. “One look at our low reservoirs tells us that we need a lot more wet weather before summer.”

Lake Oroville, the principal State Water Project reservoir, is just 39 percent full. That’s 60 percent of average for this time of year. Lake Shasta, the main reservoir for the federal government’s Central Valley Project, is 47 percent full, or 71 percent of its historical average.

The State Water Project delivers water to 1 million acres of farmland and 25 million urban Californians. Its largest customer is the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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