SACRAMENTO — The Department of Water Resources has set its initial allocation of water to agencies served by the State Water Project at 20 percent, citing California’s “deep drought” as reasoning behind the conservative number.

The 29 agencies that receive SWP water — Mojave Water Agency among them — collectively requested more than 4.1 million acre feet of water for 2017, but under the initial allocation made known in a DWR statement Monday, each agency would receive just over 839,000 acre feet, although MWA officials said if they chose to purchase the maximum from the 20 percent allotment allowed under its contract, the agency would receive 17,160 acre feet.

DWR Director Mark Cowin said October storms “have brightened the picture,” but he added that California could still face a sixth year of drought despite recent rainfall.

“Our unpredictable weather means that we must make conservation a California lifestyle,” Cowin said.

Much of October’s rainfall was “soaked up by the state’s drought-dried soil,” according to DWR officials; however, water from subsequent storms will increase runoff into streams and reservoirs.

With that said, allocations can change. DWR’s initial allocation for 2016 was just 10 percent, but that increased to 60 percent upon final allocation. Those are typically issued in May, after the state’s wettest months have passed.

Mojave Water Agency spokeswoman Yvonne Hester told the Daily Press the impact of SWP allotments vary, and said the state water allows MWA to “augment our local groundwater supply.”

“It is above and beyond what we currently need locally,” Hester said. “We use this water to recharge our groundwater supplies to drought-proof our region.”

Hester said the water is also used to meet MWA’s customer needs within the region. In addition, SWP water can be sold.

“During (DWR’s calendar year for 2016), MWA sold 6,000 acre feet in the multi-year pool to another State Water Contractor,” she said.

MWA received $828,000 as a result of the sale, and Hester said while California’s drought definitely plays a role into whether allotments are sold, MWA “has been proactive in recharging local aquifers to help our region” during droughts.

“MWA internally reviews water tables,” Hester said, “and also makes sure all our customer needs are met before determining recharge projects or the sale of water.”

As for those water tables, Hester said groundwater levels across the region vary depending on location. Most areas situated away from the river have seen little change, but areas closer to the Upper Mojave River are seeing the greatest amount of “hydrologic response” to California’s five-year drought.

Some levels are measured at recorded lows in the Upper Mojave River, but that is typical for that section, according to Hester.

“Even in the current drought, other areas along the Mojave River are experiencing high groundwater levels and surface flow not seen in many years,” Hester said. “Other areas along the lower Mojave River, the Baja subarea, continue to experience serious stresses due in part to local pumping.”

Community members are actively working on developing a plan to address the issue, she added.

Meanwhile, Lake Oroville — the SWP’s principal reservoir — currently holds 70 percent of its historical average. DWR officials said Shasta Lake and the San Luis Reservoir — two other key sources — are holding 64 and 67 percent of their historical averages, respectively.

A decade has gone by since the last 100 percent allocation from DWR, a feat that's difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions in place to protect threatened and endangered fish species.

DWR officials said they are hopeful Monday’s 20 percent allocation will increase as storms bring additional rain and snow to the state.

Matthew Cabe can be reached at MCabe@VVDailyPress.com or at 760-951-6254. Follow him on Twitter @DP_MatthewCabe.