Officials confident on water
State's major reservoirs at 95 percent of average
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- It's still early, but California's water storage levels and precipitation outlook are where they need to be to avoid severe drought conditions and water cutbacks in 2013, agency officials say.
The state's major reservoirs are at about 95 percent of average for this time of year, with more rain- and snow-producing storms possible for the Golden State later this week and next week.
"It's still not bad, but how that plays out during the water year remains to be seen," said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager for the state Department of Water Resources.
Most major reservoirs in central and northern California are about half-full -- a contrast of sorts to last fall, when storage facilities were still flush with water from an abundant 2010-11 winter.
Last winter started off with early storms in October and November, but a nearly two-month dry spell depleted supplies both above and below ground. For instance, ground water levels showed a decline at the beginning of this spring compared to 2011, and now 95 percent of the state's nonirrigated rangeland is rated in poor to fair condition.
Still, water officials aren't overly concerned about carryover levels into this season.
"I think we're right about where we should be," said Pete Lucero, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "We had a good carryover this year of water from 2012 to 2013. So that being said, we always hope for a good winter to help shore up supplies for the summer. Right now with the precipitation we're getting, it's a good sign."
California farmers and urban residents ended up getting 65 percent of their requested water from the state this year, while federal contracts yielded 40 percent of normal supplies south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The DWR initially predicts the upcoming season's allocations in December based solely on existing water storage, then typically revises the percentages upward as the winter progresses, Jones said. The Bureau of Reclamation first announces water allocations in February based on state snow surveys.
Most areas in northern and central California had fallen below their seasonal averages for rainfall as of Nov. 12, but a series of light storms was expected this week and could continue through the month, according to AccuWeather.
The federal Climate Prediction Center envisions above-average chances of precipitation in the West for the next two weeks but below average after that. Long-term outlooks now suggests a weak El Niño pattern, which could mean a drier winter in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, noted Kathy Hoxsie, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Oxnard, Calif.
Climate Prediction Center: www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
California Department of Water Resources: www.water.ca.gov
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region: www.usbr.gov/mp