The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) raised the annual water allocation it provides to the State Water Project (SWP) to 20 percent on Monday following several large storms that have brought much-needed rain to northern California’s reservoirs.
The move represents a ten percent increase from the water agency’s initial ten percent allocation announced in December, and a five percent raise from the 15 percent marker set in January, a welcome bit of news for a state struggling through a fourth year of severe drought, according to a DWR release.
“We’re grateful that close coordination among water and wildlife agencies in managing limited runoff this winter will afford State Water Project contractors a slight increase in their supplies,” DWR director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “We’re confident that this water, delivered to local districts around the state, will help offset some economic harm of this extended drought.”
The 20 percent allocation is a sharp increase from the five percent allocation the state received in 2014, however, it represents the second-lowest water allocation since 1991, when state water districts received nothing. According to the agency, the last time California received a 100 percent water allocation was in 2006.
Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors President Ted Page praised the SWP for the increase.
“During a fourth year of drought, any increase in water supplies is welcome,” Page told local ABC affiliate KERO. “We appreciate the efforts of the California Department of Water Resources to act quickly to increase the SWP allocation.”
Kern County will see its water delivery increase 50,000 acre-feet to 200,000 af with the allocation increase. However, as fish and wildlife regulations protecting the delta smelt and some species of salmon continue to limit the amount of water that can be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, famers in the Central Valley will be forced to continue to rely on precious groundwater, which is receding at an unprecedented rate.
“While not enough for all the needs of Kern County growers, a 20 percent allocation could mean less likelihood of running out of water this year,” Page told KERO. “We are hopeful the allocations will continue to improve during the remainder of this water year.”
While the news will certainly be welcomed by California’s increasingly desperate Central Valley farmers, the news is not all good; a recent survey of snowpack levels on the Sierra Nevada mountains, from which the state gets nearly a third of its drinking water, revealed that the levels are frighteningly low, at “just 19 percent of typical water content for this time of year.” Another test on Sierra snowpack levels will be conducted on Tuesday.