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By Miriam Raftery

December 27, 2016 (Sacramento) — With reservoirs rising from December storms, the California Department of Water Resources on December 21st announced that it will increase its early season estimate of water allocations for 2017.

That’s good news for Californians who have faced water use restrictions after five years of drought.

The state’s initial allocation for this calendar year was just 10% of the water requested by 29 public agencies served by the State Water Project.  But now, the Department of Water Resources says it can meet 60% of the water requested.

The agency hasn’t been able to meet 100% of water requested since 2006, over a decade ago.

By December 21st, major reservoirs were filled to between 54 percent and 73 percent of capacity.  The reservoirs also reached between 88 percent and 120 percent of their historical average for the date.

Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, says, “This winter’s wet start gives us hope we’ll be able to keep increasing the State Water Project Allocation.” But he cautioned, “The faucet can shut off suddenly and leave us dry for a sixth year in a row. Drought always looms over California, so we must use water wisely and sparingly.”

On December 27 there was more good news:  electronic readings of the Sierra snowpack showed the statewide water content at 72 percent of average for the date during the years 2002 through 2016.  The first manual snow survey of 2017 will take place on January 3rd in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

It’s still too soon to know if the wet winter will bring enough precipitation to end the drought, since the snowpack usually isn’t at its deepest until around April 1st

But there’s reason for optimism, since Northern California had its wettest October in 30 years, followed by a drier November, but a wetter than average December.  Overall, rainfall from October through December totaled 150 percent the stations’ combined historical average for the period. San Diego’s precipitation since Oct. 1st is 130% of normal.  Plus, by December 25th, the snowpack had reached 75% of the Christmas Day average—a welcome gift for all Californians.

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