A warning sign is posted at Castaic Lake Reservoir in Los Angeles County on October 4, 2022 in Castaic, California. The reservoir, which is part of the State Water Project, is currently at 35 percent capacity, which is below the historical average of 43 percent.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
As California braced for a powerful winter storm system on Wednesday, state water managers announced they were increasing supplies to water agencies serving about 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland.
Department of Water Resources (DWR) stated in a press release that the slight increase in the state water project’s projected deliveries this year comes because of an early increase in the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack, which translated into an additional 210,000 acre-feet of water. DWR now expects to deliver 35% of requested water supplies, up from 30% projected in January.
“We hope that more storms this week are a sign that wet weather will return, but there is still a chance that 2023 will be a below-average water year in the northern Sierra,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.
“Careful planning and the use of advanced forecasting tools will allow the department to balance the needs of our communities, agriculture and the environment should dry conditions continue this spring and into next year,” Nemeth added.
The State Water Project collects water from rivers in Northern California and delivers it to 29 public water suppliers. About 70% of this water is used for urban areas and industry in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, while 30% is used for agriculture in the Central Valley.
The slight increase in water allocations comes as California grapples with more than three years of drought and low reservoir levels. Last year, water officials cut state water project allocations to just 5% amid falling reservoir levels and reduced snowpack.
DWR officials warned that the new allocation could be adjusted back if extreme dry conditions warrant it.
Federal Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday also made an announcement on allocations to Central Valley Project water users, which are mostly irrigation areas that supply farms. Farms that received zero initial water allocations last year are now set to receive 35% of their allocation this year.
“While we are cautiously optimistic, we are also aware of the uncertainties that exist and the fluctuating nature of California’s climate with the possibility that dry conditions will return,” Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant said in a statement.