The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced yesterday an initial allocation of 10% for state water project customers in 2015. The initial allocation amount is slightly larger than last year’s final allocation of 5%, and according to the Department’s press release, may be adjusted up or down depending on the volume of rain and snowfall that reaches California this winter.
Typically, DWR’s initial allocation announcement included statements indicating allocation amounts may increase depending on rain and snowfall amounts. Yesterday’s announcement is different in that DWR included a first-of-its-kind caveat hinting at a possible further reduction in the allocation level to reserve supplies for salinity control in the Delta.
The 29 public water agencies that receive SWP water (State Water Project Contractors) requested 4,172,686 acre-feet of water for 2015. Under the initial allocation, they will receive 418,520 acre-feet. For most agencies, that amounts to 10 % of the supplies for which they contract with DWR.
The 10% allocation reflects improved precipitation forecasts and an increase in water levels at Lake Oroville, the state water system’s primary reservoir. Lake Oroville alone provides water for 25 million Californians. Although the improved precipitation levels allowed DWR to set the initial allocation at 10%, experts at the department estimate that it would take rain levels of 150% of average to overcome the state’s drought conditions.
In a separate, but related issue illustrating the devastating effects the drought has had on agriculture, DWR issued a report on groundwater overdraft conditions. The report, issued November 25, 2014, is a requirement of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2014 Continued State of Emergency Drought proclamation made in April of the same year. Included in the report is a statement that indicates the peak summer acreage of farmland idled in California in 2014 was 1.7 million acres. The statement may render obsolete an earlier UC Davis estimate that 450,000 acres were fallowed in 2014. The estimate was a multi-agency research project led by the National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA).
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