By Kurtis Alexander
With a bit more snow in the Sierra than in years past, California officials on Wednesday boosted the amount of water they expect to deliver this year from the state's mountain-fed reservoirs.
The 29 water agencies served by the massive State Water Project, which provides about 25 million Californians with water, are set to receive 30 percent of the supplies they requested -- up from 15 percent estimated last month, the Department of Water Resources announced.
While still a fraction of what the agencies want, the allocation would be the highest in three years and take some pressure off agencies to pass rigid conservation measures on to customers, though probably not much.
"Today's increase, although good news, does not mean the drought is ending," said Mark Cowin, director of the water resources department, in a prepared statement. "After more than four dry years, we still have a critical water shortage. We need a lot more wet weather this winter to take the edge off drought. Using water carefully and sparingly is still the quickest, most effective way to stretch supplies."
State officials said the allocation would have been higher had it not been for a critically dry February. January storms pushed snowpack to its highest levels in five years, though on Wednesday snowpack measured just 92 percent of average for the date.
The 34 lakes, reservoirs and storage facilities that make up the State Water Project supply dozens of cities with water as well as about a million acres of irrigated farmland.
The communities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon get more than two-thirds of their supplies from the state and because of sparse deliveries in past years, they've rolled out some of the tightest restrictions on water use. Those conservation measures are not likely to ease much, if at all.
The state hasn't provided water agencies with their full allotment since 2006.
The State Water Project is alongside the federally operated Central Valley Project in moving water from the mountains to cities and farms. The federal system has not projected how much water it will provide this year.
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