SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Last month’s wet winter storms led California officials on Thursday to announce they’ll release more water than initially planned from state storage to local agencies that provide water for 27 million people and vast swaths of farmland.
The Department of Water Resources now plans to give water districts 15% of what they’ve requested for 2022. That’s up from last month, when the state said it would supply 0% of requested water beyond what was needed for necessities such as drinking and bathing. It was the first time ever the state issued an initial water allocation of nothing.
State officials stressed California’s drought is far from over and urged people to keep conserving water. But December storms that dumped heavy snow in the mountains and partially refilled parched reservoirs have provided some relief from what had been an exceptionally dry year.
Still, the state hasn’t seen a major storm yet this month, and most state reservoirs remain below their historic averages. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows much of California remains in severe drought.
“Dry conditions have already returned in January. Californians must continue to conserve as the state plans for a third dry year,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.
California stores and conveys water across the state through a vast network of reservoirs, dams and canals known as the State Water Project. It works alongside the federally run Central Valley Project to move water primarily from the state’s wetter northern region to the drier south.