By Matt Weiser
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

California water officials on Monday announced a 25 percent delivery forecast for customers who depend on the State Water Project.

The projection is preliminary, and usually increases over the course of winter. It primarily concerns urban areas in the south San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles-San Diego metro areas, which depend on the State Water Project for a significant share of their supplies. It has no bearing on the Sacramento area, except as a general guide to statewide precipitation amounts.

The allocation announcement is the first of the year and reflects a conservative approach that is customary for the Department of Water Resources. Even so, it is far better than last year’s initial forecast, which was just 5 percent.

The improvement is a result of a strong winter last year, good carryover storage in Lake Oroville and good precipitation so far this season. For instance, DWR’s Northern Sierra precipitation index is 170 percent of average for this date, thanks in part to weekend storms that dumped several feet of snow. The San Joaquin River index is 215 percent of average.

The State Water Project stores its water primarily in Lake Oroville and diverts it out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

California depends on its Sierra Nevada snowpack to serve a thirsty population. DWR Director Mark Cowin said caution is warranted because winter has not yet officially begun, and it is impossible to know for sure whether that snowpack will meet the state’s needs come springtime.

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