California’s Department of Water Resources has increased its projected deliveries of State Water Project water in 2011 to 50 percent of contractors’ requests.

The department made the announcement before a series of Pacific storms dumped some of the largest rainfall and snowfall amounts in recent years on California valleys and mountains. These storms follow an already wet start to winter.

“This is very good news after the 2007-2009 drought from which we’re still recovering,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.  “We don’t want to be overly optimistic with most of the winter ahead of us, but recent storms have given us the best early season water supply outlook in five years.”

The initial 2011 allocation, or delivery estimate, on Nov. 22 was 1,043,034 acre-feet, or 25 percent of the SWP contractors’ requested amount of 4,172,126 acre-feet.  The 50 percent allocation announced today equals 2,086,065 acre-feet.

This year’s (2010) final allocation was 50 percent of requests, up from the 5 percent initially projected after three dry years.  The 5 percent initial allocation was the lowest since the SWP began delivering water in 1967.

DWR is conservative in estimating water deliveries since farmers and others can suffer if expected amounts cannot be delivered.  It is likely that the 50 percent allocation will be increased as rain and snowfall totals continue to increase.

Electronic readings indicate that water content in the statewide mountain snowpack is 122 percent of normal for the date, and as of yesterday, the northern Sierra region had received 42 percent of normal precipitation for the entire water year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30).

Releases have been increased from several reservoirs, including the federal Central Valley Project’s Lake Shasta north of Redding and Folsom Lake near Sacramento, to make room for runoff from storms sweeping in from the Gulf of Alaska during Christmas week.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal reservoir, is at 81 percent of normal storage for the date (50 percent of capacity), still with plenty of room to handle incoming storms.  Shasta is at 73 percent capacity (118 percent of normal), and Folsom at 48 percent of capacity (100 percent of normal for the date).

DWR supplies water to 29 public agencies with long-term contracts to purchase State Water Project water.  Collectively, the contractors serve more than 25 million Californians and close to a million acres of irrigated farmland.