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Drought: State Water Project Ups Deliveries to 60 Percent

Farmers and water agencies who receive water from California’s State Water Project (SWP) will see deliveries increased to 60 percent this year, a sign that despite California’s continued record drought, the state’s most critical reservoirs have slowly returned to near-normal levels.

Earlier this month, water officials announced that SWP contractors would receive 45 percent of their allocation this year, a significant increase from the 20 percent allocated in 2015 and the zero percent allocation the year before. But officials on Thursday revised that figure upward, meaning SWP contractors like the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) — the state’s largest water agency, serving 19 million Southern California customers — will likely receive more water than they expected this year.

The state system’s principal reservoir, Lake Oroville, sat at 94 percent capacity and an encouraging 118 percent of its historic average for this time of year on April 21, according to the Department of Water Resources. Other SWP reservoirs, including San Luis and Lake Perris, have not fared as well, at just 49 percent and 36 percent capacity, respectively.

But steady levels at Lake Oroville, combined with a stronger snowpack this year, will allow the SWP to pump billions of gallons more water south than they have since the drought began. The last time SWP’s allocation cracked 60 percent was in 2012, when the system promised 65 percent of water deliveries.

SWP allocation has not reached 100 percent in a decade, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) announced earlier this month that it would provide just a five percent allocation to its downstate contractors this year, a significant increase from the zero percent delivered the previous two years but a far cry from what SWP has provided. Farmers north of the Delta will likely receive 100 percent of deliveries for the first time since 2006, and Friant division contractors will receive 30 percent.

Central Valley agriculture interests and water agencies have blasted the discrepancy in deliveries and have argued that the federal system is run inefficiently.

Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum

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