State boosts water supply for farms

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The wettest winter and spring in more than a decade prompted state officials on Wednesday to boost the amount of water available to agencies that supply 25 million California residents and almost a million acres of farmland.

The state Department of Water Resources said contractors of the State Water Project can count on 80 percent of the water they requested. It will be the highest allocation since 2006.

Heavy March snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and a wet spring filled reservoirs and built a hefty supply of water that the state can tap during the summer and fall.

But it's still not all that cities and farms of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California had asked for, even after the wettest weather since 1995.

Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the allocation is better than farmers have seen in recent years, but he noted water supplies remain limited even though the Sierra snowpack is well above average.

"That indicates the need for a long-term solution in order to capture more of that water for use in dry years," he said.

Building more reservoirs or a canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to increase water supplies has been a perennial issue at the state Capitol and is stirring again.

The last time contractors of the State Water Project got all the water they asked for was 2006. In that year, the state's snowpack on April 1 was 125 percent of average for the date, but storms continued into April and May, said Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the water resources department.

The record snowpack was set in 1983, when it was 227 percent of normal.

The snowpack this year on April 1 was 171 percent of average. A final determination on the water allocation will come by the end of May and will be based on spring precipitation and concerns about fish in the delta.

Last year, the State Water Project supplied half the amount requested by its contractors.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

 



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