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San Diego Could See Reduced Water Supply In 2010

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Aired 12/1/09

The California Department of Water Resources issued its lowest initial estimate on how much water will be delivered from the State Water Project next year.

The California Department of Water Resources issued its lowest initial estimate on how much water will be delivered from the State Water Project next year.

The California Department of Water Resources issued its lowest ever initial estimate on how much water will be delivered from the State Water Project. Winter rain and snowfall may provide relief, but will likely not counteract three years of drought.
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Above: The California Department of Water Resources issued its lowest ever initial estimate on how much water will be delivered from the State Water Project. Winter rain and snowfall may provide relief, but will likely not counteract three years of drought.

The State Water Project provides water to more than 25 million Californians. It's the source for about 30 percent of San Diego County's annual supply.

The Department of Water Resources says the initial allocation of 5 percent is the lowest since the project began delivering water in 1967.

Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow says the amount may change with winter rain and snowfall.

But he says after after three years of drought, whatever we get will provide little relief.

"And of course after three dry years the watershed is dry," said Snow. "And so we would expect runoff to be less than the snowpack because of that."

Snow says the initial 5 percent allocation reflects several factors including the ongoing drought conditions and low carryover storage levels in the state's major reservoirs.

"Storage is not in good shape," said Snow. "We refer to it as carryover storage, the amount of water that we go into a new water year with. And when you look at the major reservoirs throughout the state it's somewhere less than 69 percent of normal, so way below capacity."

Snow says another reason for the low estimate is federally-mandated environmental restrictions on water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect endangered fish species in the Delta.

The National Weather Service forecast shows California can expect above-average precipitation this winter.

Dennis Cushman with the San Diego County Water Authority says an average water year would increase the supply from the State Water Project, but conservation remains critical.

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