CALIFORNIA – The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced December 1, an initial 10 percent of requested supplies is forecasted to be allocated to 27 million Californians for 2024.
The department said a low allocation is not uncommon after a wet year.
California water year off to dry start
The December 1 initial water supply forecast is the first allocation of the new water year.
“California’s water year is off to a relatively dry start. While we are hopeful that this El Niño pattern will generate wet weather, this early in the season we have to plan with drier conditions in mind,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.
Scientists say El Niño – a climate phenomenon, is often associated with above-average rainfall in California, especially in the southern part of the state.
DWR said the allocation is calculated based on October and November precipitation, dry soils, runoff, and storage in Lake Oroville. It has no bearing on current water supplies or water captured in 2023.
Most reservoirs in the state remain above average for this time of year.
Low allocations after wet years
DWR said it is not uncommon for the initial allocation forecast to be low following very wet years.
For Water Year 2018, the initial allocation was 15 percent following an 85 percent final allocation in 2017. Water Year 2020 started with a 10 percent initial allocation following a 75 percent final allocation in 2019.
The department said both 2017 and 2019 were very wet winters.
Conservative allocation in response to climate change
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Adel Hagekhalil said although California received significant rain and snow last winter, this fall has so far been relatively dry.
“We must be prepared for the possibility that these dry conditions will continue,” said Hagekhalil. “The state is wise to make a conservative initial state project allocation. Water managers recognize that climate change is making California’s swings from wet to dry even more extreme, and we must be ready.”
DWR said as the winter progresses, if California sees an increase in rain and snowfall, the allocation forecast may increase.
More historical data on water allocations is available at https://water.ca.gov/programs/state-water-project/management/swp-water-contractors.