The Department of Water Resources says that it expects to deliver just 5% of the requested amount of water from its customers for next year. The massive State Water Project serves 29 water contractors, primarily in Southern California. This year, water contractors and agencies got 35% of their requested allocations.
State reservoirs like Shasta, Oroville, and San Luis are at low levels after two years of below average rain and snow. The forecast may change because January and February are historically the heaviest rain months. The last time the early estimate was as low as 5% was in 2010. The eventual amount delivered was 50%.
“We could get a series of storms that could completely make up for it,” said Arthur Hinojosa, DWR Chief of Hydrology and Flood Operations.
Hinojosa also said forecasts are traditionally conservative and takes into account the last two years, which were dryer than normal.
“Much better to plan for the worst and adapt as things improve,” said Hinojosa.
The last time contractors got 100% of their request was in 2006. 30% of the water goes to agriculture, and urban deliveries make up 70%. Most water agencies have several sources of water, but if they run short some could enforce tougher water use rules and conservation measures.
Many water customers rely on federal water sources, like the Central Valley Project, or private reservoirs, streams and creeks. But, the DWR forecast acts as a bellwether for those water sources because they all rely on the Sierra snow pack and rain in the foothills.
The latest storm won’t affect the dismal forecast.
“There hasn’t bee significant accumalations that we’ve measured so far for the storm, but it’s at least a start,” said Hinojosa.