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State, feds raising water allotments in California

Scott Smith Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. – Drought-stricken California farmers and cities are set to get more water as state and federal officials ease cutbacks due to recent rain and snow, officials said Friday.

The Department of Water Resources said it is increasing water allotments from the State Water Project from zero to 5 percent of what water districts have requested. The State Water Project supplies water to 29 public agencies serving more than 25 million Californians and irrigates nearly a million acres of farmland.

Also, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will supply 75 percent of the water requested by water agencies in the Sacramento Valley, up from the current 40 percent.

“This is all a bit of good news in an otherwise-bleak water year,” said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources.

The state’s increase to a 5 percent allocation will make a little more than 200,000 acre-feet available. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre to a depth of 1 foot and roughly enough to sustain a family of four for a year.

Federal and state officials said rain and snow from storms in February and March allowed them to increase water allotments.

The news comes as the state is experiencing its third consecutive dry year. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January.

State officials said the recent storms also removed the need to immediately install rock barriers, blocking certain channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to prevent saltwater intrusion. The expensive barriers would have adverse impacts on fish and wildlife and worsen water quality for some agricultural users, according to state officials.

Cowan said the state has increased its water allotment but asked suppliers not to draw from it until after Sept. 1.

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