Calif.’s State Water Project boosts allocation to 20 percent

Early-season storms will enable the State Water Project to increase its anticipated deliveries from 15 percent to 20 percent, the agency has announced.

Abundant rainfall in early December and for a few days in mid-February enabled the state Department of Water Resources to send water to the San Luis Reservoir south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to serve customers during dry months.

The reservoir near Los Banos, Calif., holds 627,000 acre-feet more water than it did at this time a year ago, so state water managers will be able to leave water in Lake Oroville in case the drought persists late this year and into 2016, officials explained.

“We’re able to go up a bit … because of the storms in December and February,” DWR spokesman Ted Thomas said. “It’s kind of an important thing to note that the reason we are confident we can deliver 20 percent is we took advantage of the runoff from the two storm systems to pump water into San Luis Reservoir south of the Delta.”

The state increase comes as many farmers who rely on federal Central Valley Project have learned they will likely get none again this year. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must contend with a more complicated step-ladder of senior and junior water rights, whereas the state can make across-the-board allocations to its 29 water-district contractors, Thomas said.

“They are delivering a substantial amount of water” to senior rights-holders along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, Thomas said. “They’re not at a zero allocation for everyone.”

In all, the DWR expects to deliver 840,000 acre-feet of the nearly 4.2 million acre-feet requested by contractors, the agency explained in a news release. A 20 percent allocation would be the second-lowest since 1991, when agricultural customers of the project got a zero allocation and municipal customers received 30 percent, according to the DWR.

Last year the state delivered just 5 percent of requested water to contractors after allocating as much as 80 percent three years earlier. <more>

March 3, 2015 Capital Press