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State ups water allocations to 5 percent

Posted: April 18, 2014 7:32 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2014 7:32 p.m.
 

Farmers and state water contractors who depend on the State Water Project — including the Santa Clarita Valley’s water wholesaler — will receive slightly more than nothing from the project this year, state officials said Friday.

Rain and snow from storms that hit California in February and March allowed the California Department of Water Resources to increase water allocations from zero — the first year the state said there was no water available — to 5 percent of the allocations they are supposed to receive.

“This additional water only amounts to the bare minimum of what is needed to ensure the most at-risk districts don’t run out of water and gives all agencies some increased flexibility for water management,” said Terry Erlewine, general manager for the State Water Contractors, a nonprofit association of 27 public agencies that purchase water under contract with the State Water Project.

Among those agencies is the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which supplies about half the water consumed in Santa Clarita Valley homes and businesses.

California has seen three years of too little rain, and in January Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency. A committee of Santa Clarita Valley water suppliers has called for local residents to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent.

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

Cowan said the state has increased the water allotment but asked suppliers not to draw from it until after Sept. 1. Officials worry about yet another dry year for California in 2015.

Cowan also urged residents to conserve their water use.

“The bottom line is we will continue to see more calls for water use restrictions throughout urban areas,” he said. “I expect those to be more and more severe over the course of the summer.”

Jim Beck, manager of the Kern County Water Agency in Bakersfield, said most people think of a 5 percent increase as almost insignificant, but compared to receiving no water — what they had been told — that meager increase is huge. The agency provides 90 percent of its water to farmers.

“Our growers are really turning over every rock to find every bit of water,” Beck said. “This really changes things.”

The State Water Project carries water from Northern California through a series of canals and levees and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to central and Southern California.

 

 

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