Communities and growers served by the State Water Project can expect to receive 75% of their allotted water, California officials announced Friday.
In addition, Gov. Gavin Newsom ended some of California’s water restrictions on Friday. The changes follow a winter of relentless rain and snow that has replenished reservoirs after three years of severe drought.
The state Division of Water Resources previously announced a 35% water allotment. The increase amounts to an additional 1.7 million acre-feet of water for the 29 public water agencies serving 27 million residents.
Last year, they only got a 5% allotment as California endured three of the driest years ever since modern recordkeeping began in 1896.
“California continues to experience weather whiplash, going from extreme drought to at least 19 atmospheric rivers since late December. It really demonstrates that in times of plenty, we need to move as much water into storage as is feasible,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We’ve been able to manage the system to the benefit of communities, agriculture, and the environment. It’s certainly been a welcome improvement following the three driest years on record for California.”
DWR said that it DWR now expects San Luis Reservoir in Merced County to end the wet season at capacity. Lake Oroville, the largest SWP reservoir, is at 120% of the average for this time of year and currently releasing water through the Oroville Spillway to reduce flood risk for downstream communities in anticipation of the spring snowmelt.
Newsom Eases Water Restrictions
Meanwhile, Newsom said he would stop asking people to voluntarily cut their water use by 15%, a request he first made nearly two years ago. Californians never met Newsom’s call for that level of conservation — as of January the cumulative savings were just 6.2%.
“Are we out of a drought? Mostly — but not completely,” Newsom said Friday from a farm northwest of Sacramento that has flooded its fields to help replenish groundwater.
The governor also said he would ease rules requiring local water agencies to impose restrictions on customers. That order will impact people in different ways depending on where they live. For most people, it means they won’t be limited to watering their lawns on only certain days of the week or at certain times of the day. Other restrictions remain in place, including a ban on watering decorative grass for businesses.
However, Newsom did not declare an end to the drought on Friday, even though the U.S. Drought Monitor reported this week that much of the state — including the major population centers along the coast and farmland in the Central Valley — is not in drought.
(Associated Press contributed to this story.)