Friday, December 17, 2010

Water Supply Forecast Boosted After Wet Fall

By Matt Weiser
Published: Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 - 10:15 am

Last Modified: Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 - 11:25 am

The state on Friday boosted its water supply forecast to 50 percent for water contractors who draw water from the Delta.

The move represents a large increase so early in the winter, a measure of confidence in water supplies thanks to a very wet fall in California.

"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," said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources.

The forecast indicates to agencies that buy water from the State Water Project that they can expect to get half of the maximum amount of water available to them under existing contracts with the state, which total about 4.2 million acre-feet.

These contractors include 29 public agencies, including urban water agencies in Southern California and the Silicon Valley, and the Kern County Water Agency. Collectively, they serve more than 25 million Californians and close to a million acres of irrigated farmland.

The forecast does not affect water availability in the Sacramento area, which holds its own water rights in the Sacramento and American rivers. It does, however, serve as a general measure of water availability statewide. Thanks to a wet fall, the statewide snowpack stood at 122 percent of average as of Friday.

The State Water Project stores water in Lake Oroville on the Feather River and delivers it to customers primarily via pumps and canals that extract from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The forecast is usually updated monthly in winter and spring as hydrologic conditions change. The season's first forecast in November indicated a 25 percent supply.

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