The Latest: Some California farmers expect no federal water

AP News
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Posted: Jan 22, 2016 5:23 PM

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The latest on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamations outlook for water supplies in 2016 for drought-stricken California (all times local):

2:20 p.m.

A water district official says some farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley expect to receive no irrigation water from federal sources this year even though El Nino storms have drenched the state.

Johnny Amaral, deputy general manager of the Westlands Water District, said Friday that authorities have told his district not to expect any surface water this year.

Westlands distributes federal water to hundreds of San Joaquin Valley farms.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says it is too early to determine specific water allocations in the agriculture-rich valley.

In its outlook Friday, the agency said key California reservoirs are now 49 percent full, compared with 47 percent on Oct. 1 before the onslaught of El Nino storms.

The agency says it is preparing to announce its water allocations in late February.

Amaral blames environmental regulations protecting endangered fish for allowing water to flow out to sea, rather than being captured it in reservoirs.

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1 p.m.

Federal officials say the recent onslaught of El Nino storms only increased water levels slightly in California reservoirs that now stand at half of historic depths for this time of year.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Shane Hunt said Friday that the heavy rain has soaked into the landscape parched by four years of drought, and the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has grown but not yet started to melt.

The outlook comes as federal water managers prepare to announce how much water will be available for Central Valley farmers this summer.

Officials say federally operated reservoirs that supply farms and cities throughout California's Central Valley are now 49 percent full, compared with 47 percent on Oct. 1.

David Murillo, a regional director of the federal agency, says the first Sierra Nevada snowpack in December and the El Nino storms are promising this early in the winter.