LOS ANGELES — California’s recent string of nine atmospheric rivers has yielded an upside.
The Department of Water Resources’ State Water Project announced Thursday that it will boost water deliveries by 1.27 million acre-feet in 2023 — enough to support the indoor- and outdoor-watering needs of more than 4 million households for a year.
The recent storms allowed the state to capture and store enough water in its reservoirs to deliver 30% of requested water supplies because of “extreme above average” precipitation, the agency said. In December, the DWR indicated it could only provide 5% of what had been requested because of below-average precipitation.
“We are pleased that we can increase the allocation now and provide more water to local water agencies,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement. “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.”
The state’s largest reservoirs — Oroville and San Luis — have together gained 1.62 million acre-feet of stored water, which is enough to provide water to 5.6 million households for a year. The newly increased water allocations from the State Water Project, which delivers water throughout California, only account for current reservoir storage and do not include expected runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack.
As of Thursday, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is well above 200% of normal for this date, according to the California Data Exchange Center.
The Department of Water Resources plans to conduct monthly snow surveys in February, March, April and May, after which the agency might update its water delivery allocations. Because California typically receives half its rain and snow by the end of January, the agency warned California could see warm and dry conditions in the lead up to the end of the state’s wet season April 1 and advised residents to continue to conserve water.
For the first time in 2021, the State Water Project allocated zero water except for human health and safety needs, as California reeled from the effects of an ongoing mega-drought that reduced snowpack runoff.
The State Water Project’s final water delivery allocation for 2023 will be determined in May or June.