The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced an initial allocation of 25 percent of requested deliveries to its State Water Project (SWP) contractors for calendar year 2011.

The initial allocation is a conservative delivery estimate and will be adjusted as hydrologic conditions develop during the winter. Nonetheless, 25 percent is a much-improved figure from last year’s initial projection of only 5 percent, the lowest since the SWP began delivering water in 1967.

Following three consecutive drought years, 2010’s persistent spring storms allowed DWR to increase the initial 5 percent allocation to 50 percent. The 25 percent initial allocation for 2011 represents 1,043,034 acre-feet, compared with the maximum allowable 4,172,126 acre-feet in water deliveries that SWP contractors requested. However, the allocation at this time of year is a conservative estimate. As winter progresses and the Department has a clearer picture of water conditions, the allocation can be increased.

If average precipitation continues, the final allocation will likely be raised to 60 percent of requested amounts. This season’s early conditions are much approved over last year.

California’s precipitation to date stands at 165 percent of average, which is 20 percent of average for the water year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30). October precipitation was 250 percent of average. The SWP’s principal reservoir, Lake Oroville in Butte County, is at 47 percent of capacity, 76 percent of average for this date. Initial SWP allocation reflects carryover storage levels in the state’s major reservoirs and federally mandated environmental restrictions on water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect endangered fish species. SWP water is distributed among 29 long-term contractors who serve more than 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.