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State Significantly Eases Water Cutbacks

Sacramento, CA — As a wet winter and March precipitation further reduces the severity of the state’s persisting drought, water officials are easing cutbacks.

The State Department of Water Resources announced Thursday it will be able to provide farmers and other customers with 45 percent of the water they requested this year, marking the third such increase in recent months. This is a significant departure from the state’s driest years when customers received as little as five percent of what they requested.

As this winter’s storms are now rebuilding the Sierra snowpack and beginning to provide significant positive impacts to some Northern California reservoirs, the state is continuing to ease cutbacks. Thursday’s moves by the board may affect up to 25 million Californians and just under a million acres of irrigated farmland. Yesterday, State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus responded to statements made by some water districts that recent wet weather calls into question the need for residents to live under an extended drought emergency. She signaled that the board plans to consider relaxing or even dropping drought regulations after it reviews the rain and snowfall totals through March.

The latest available figures indicate that virtually all of California remains within some drought level but weekly measurements are reflecting modest gains after the recent March storms. While the U.S. Drought Monitor earlier this week shows that nearly three-quarters of the state remains in a severe or worse drought, that figure decreased by about nine percent just this past week. Overall, 99.5 percent of California remains at one of the five levels of drought. The Exceptional Drought level — which is not the most severe — remains the largest category, accounting for more than a third of the state.