Santa Claus did not come early for California Department of Water Resources (DWR) water contractors.

Then again there is no Santa Claus, and there is literally no state water for 25 million Californians and farmers of 750,000 acres of farmland who count on water deliveries from the state-run water project.

Groundwater pumping and "surplus" water auctions are expected to reach unprecedented levels as municipals and farmers search for water to replace what the state should be delivering.

DWR announced yesterday that the initial allocation for project water is only 25 percent of the water contractors' total requested amount, about 1.4 million acre-feet. It may increase during the winter months with more rain and snowfall, but so far this winter has been drier than a Death Valley watering hole.

This is significantly less than the initial allocation of 60 percent for 2007, when the winter was wetter than normal. Even then, the initial allocation did not change throughout the year.

Hydrologic conditions this year resulted in a "dry" water year in the Sacramento region and a "critically dry" water year in the San Joaquin region. Subsequently, SWP storage conditions going into the 2008 water year are less than average.

The 2008 water allocation is the lowest initial allocation since 2003.

To assure water supply for California's future, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is urging passage of a comprehensive water bond measure that includes new funding for above and below ground water storage. Additional funding would go to Delta restoration, water supply reliability and specified watersheds throughout the state.

SWP water is distributed among 29 long-term SWP contractors who serve more than 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

In making this allocation of SWP water, a major source of water for many Californians, the department considered a conservative projection of hydrology, SWP operational constraints and 2008 contractor requests. SWP Contractors' Table A water for 2008 totals 4,165,931 million acre-feet, of which 4,145,124 million acre-feet were requested. Table A water is the maximum contractual amount that SWP contractors can request each year. The department will revise the allocation as hydrologic and water supply conditions develop and provide for additional deliveries.