The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the initial water allocation for the State Water Project (SWP). It has been a slow start to the beginning of the 2021 water year. As a result, DWR is allocating 10 percent of requested supplies for the SWP. The determination is made using cautious expectations for hydrology based on factors including current reservoir storage. Last year’s initial water allocation was also 10 percent, with a final allocation of 20 percent that was announced in May.
“While we still have several months ahead of us, dry conditions persist,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a news release. “As communities throughout California prepare to support their environment and economies through times of extended dry periods, state agencies plan together to support those communities. Californians can help by always using water carefully, inside and outside their homes and businesses.”
The low initial water allocation is based on disappointing data coming from DWR’s eight precipitation stations in Northern California. Rainfall totals for October were a record low at zero percent of the average. November fared a little better with 53 percent of the average. Altogether, the percent of the seasonal average to date is 35 percent. Although the numbers are low, they are still better than last year at this time. Last year’s seasonal total to date at the beginning of December was just 23 percent.
Reservoir levels are also lower than historical averages, which played a role in the initial allocation. Lake Shasta is at 75 percent over the average, while Lake Oroville is at 61 percent. This time last year the lakes were at 119 percent and 90 percent of average, respectively. San Luis Reservoir is doing a bit better than last year and is currently at 76 percent of the average.
The initial water allocation of 10 percent equates to 422,848 acre-feet. Water is distributed between 29 long-term SWP contractors serving more than 27 million Californians. The water is also used to cover 750,000 acres of farmland.