The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced an initial allocation of 15 percent for water delivery to the State Water Project (SWP) contractors in 2009, the second lowest initial allocation in history.

“This further dramatizes the urgent need for additional investments in water storage and conveyance infrastructure to assure an adequate and reliable water supply,” said DWR Director Lester Snow. “The uncertainly of precipitation patterns due to global warming and deteriorating conditions in the Delta, California’s main water hub, demand immediate action to enhance our ecosystem and keep our economy productive in the 21st century. The governor has sounded the wakeup call, and the clock is ticking.”

It reflects the low carryover storage levels in the state’s major reservoirs, ongoing drought conditions and court ordered restrictions on water deliveries from the Delta.

The lowest initial allocation figure was 10 percent of SWP Contractors’ requests in 1993, but that number was increased to 100 percent during the water year as conditions developed. Last year, the initial figure was 25 percent and it was increased to 35 percent.

DWR has historically made this important announcement at the end of November, complying with the long-term water supply contracts requiring a Dec. 1 announcement. The 2009 announcement comes slightly earlier to help local water agencies better prepare for the upcoming growing season, which is expected to be another dry year. The announcement is part of the Department’s effort to implement Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Drought Executive Order (S-06-08) directing DWR to help local water districts and agencies proactively address these conditions.

SWP contractors deliver water to more than 25 million California residents and more than 750,000 acres of farmland. This year, SWP contractors requested 4,166,376 million acre-feet of water for the 2009 calendar year, the maximum contractual amount allowed. Actual delivery amounts can increase from the initial allocation depending on the year’s hydrologic and water supply conditions.

In preparing the initial allocation, DWR considered a conservative projection of hydrology; SWP operational constraints including additional 2009 Delta export restrictions per the federal district court’s remedy order to protect Delta Smelt; and 2009 contractor demands, including carryover water from 2008.