(California Department of Water Resources)

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Nov. 20 announced an initial allocation of five percent of requested deliveries to State Water Project (SWP) contractors in calendar year 2014.

DWR says the initial allocation is a conservative estimate of what the agency expects it can deliver as a percentage of the total amount requested by the public water agencies which contract for SWP deliveries.

“We hope things improve with this winter’s storms,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin, “but there is no guarantee that 2014 won't be our third consecutive dry year.  Today's allocation is a stark reminder that California's fickle weather demands that we make year-round conservation a way of life.”

It is still early in the water year. DWR will update the allocation as the winter progresses based on mountain snowpack accumulation. 

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On average, half of California’s annual precipitation occurs from December through February. Three-quarters occurs from November through March.

Initial water delivery estimates are conservative since they are made before the wettest period of the year.

The lowest previous initial SWP allocation, also 5 percent, was for calendar year 2010. Made on the heels of the 2007-2009 droughts, the 2010 allocation was eventually increased to 50 percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet of water requested by the 29 public agencies that receive SWP water.

Winter storms increased the second-lowest initial allocation of 10 percent for calendar year 1993 to 100 percent of requested deliveries.

Storage levels in the state’s major reservoirs largely dictate the initial SWP allocation.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project's principal reservoir, is at 41 percent of capacity (66 percent of its historical average for the date).

Lake Shasta north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project's largest reservoir, is at 37 percent of capacity (61 percent of average).

The San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, a vital south-of-Delta supply pool for both the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, has 25 percent of capacity (42 percent of average for the date) due both to dry weather and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt and salmon.

Electronic reservoir readings are available.

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