Environment & Science

Initial state water allocation set at 20 percent

File: A sprinkler sprays water on a lawn at Golden Gate Park on January 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
File: A sprinkler sprays water on a lawn at Golden Gate Park on January 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Dozens of water agencies in drought-weary California may only receive 20 percent of their requested deliveries in 2017, state officials said Monday.

But the Department of Water Resources initial allocation forecast is twice more than that announced a year ago.

Officials said winter storms in coming months may boost the first 2017 allocation, but point out California's deep drought lingers.

Initial allocations almost always change. The 10 percent allocation ultimately gave way to a 60 percent allocation for 2016.

The rainy season has had a strong start with snow in the Sierra Nevada and rain in parched Southern California. But officials point out that one wet year won't make up for the long drought.

"October's storms and subsequent rainfall have brightened the picture, but we could still end up in a sixth year of drought," said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources. "Our unpredictable weather means that we must make conservation a California lifestyle."

Much of October's heavy rainfall was soaked up by the state's drought-dried soil, although water from subsequent storms will increase runoff into streams and reservoirs, the department said.

The State Water Project supplies 29 public water agencies — from the San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California — that serve nearly two-thirds of California residents and irrigate nearly 1 million acres of farmland.

The drought has left California reservoirs at or near record low levels, and the water shortage has caused farmers to rely heavily on pumping groundwater.