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Storms Boost State Water Allocation from 5% to 30% for Cities, Farms



Snow at Lake Tahoe
With California's snowpack at twice its average level for late January, State Water Project allocations climbed from 5% to 30% on Thursday. (Shutterstock)
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Thanks to recent storms, more water will be made available to California communities, farmers, and businesses that rely on the State Water Project for their H20

The state Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that the SWP is boosting deliveries to 29 public water agencies serving 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.

Based on the amount of water captured and stored after the storms, DWR expects to deliver 30% of water requests in 2023. That’s up from the initial 5% announced on Dec. 1.

Those storms helped fill reservoirs and build the Sierra Nevada snowpack. The SWP’s two largest reservoirs (Oroville and San Luis) gained a combined 1.62 million acre-feet of stored water. That’s sufficient to provide water to 5.6 million households annually.

“We are pleased that we can increase the allocation now and provide more water to local water agencies,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “These storms made clear the importance of our efforts to modernize our existing water infrastructure for an era of intensified drought and flood. Given these dramatic swings, these storm flows are badly needed to refill groundwater basins and support recycled water plants.”

Keep Using Water Wisely, Officials Say

However, state water officials warned that two months remain in the rainy season, and it’s possible California could return to dry conditions before April 1. They advised residents to “continue to use water wisely to help the state adapt to a hotter, drier future and the possible return of drought.”

After the state conducts snow surveys on Feb. 1, March 1, April 1, and May 1, it may update the allocation. Through Tuesday, California had more than twice as much snow in the mountains as its historical average.

The lowest initial SWP allocation was 0% on Dec. 1, 2021, with limited water designated only for unmet human health and safety needs. Last year’s final allocation was 5%. Four of the 29 SWP  contractors ultimately received additional human health and safety water supply.

State Pumps Working at Maximum Capacity

The SWP pumps are operating at their maximum of 9,500 cubic feet per second and will continue to be adjusted to meet State and federal requirements, state officials said.

However, DWR noted in a news release on Thursday, that had the proposed Delta Conveyance Project been in place, the SWP could have stored an extra 202,000 acre-feet of water — enough to supply more than 710,000 households for a year — Jan. 1-Jan. 23 while still protecting endangered species.

SWP graphic Jan 2023

(California Department of Water Resources)

Valley Now in Moderate Drought

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said that severe drought was reduced to moderate drought in most of the San Joaquin Valley and the lowest category — abnormal dryness — has replaced moderate drought on the central coast.

“Over the past few weeks, a series of atmospheric rivers brought significant amounts of rain and snow across parts of the West leading to improvements in soil moisture, streamflow, reservoirs levels, and snowpack,” the monitor said.

Most of the state remains in moderate or severe drought, with only a fraction on the far north coast drought-free.

(Associated Press contributed to this story.)


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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