"Desperate California To Get More Water At Last"

"LOS ANGELES -- Drought-stricken farmers and cities across California were granted a measure of relief on Friday when federal and state officials said they expected to supply significantly more water this year than last.

The announcements came as welcome news in the nation's No. 1 farm state, where dramatic cutbacks in water deliveries by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state Water Resources Department had idled thousands of farm workers and 300,000 acres of cropland.

Shortages have also forced cities and counties to ration water, raise rates and impose strict mandatory conservation measures that turned lawns brown and left cars unwashed.

But a series of strong winter storms that could mark the end of a three-year drought has left several feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada mountain range that serves as California's principal source of surface water.

In light of that deluge, this year the Bureau of Reclamation will supply most California users with 100 percent of the water they are contracted to receive, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said."

Dan Whitcomb reports for Reuters March 1, 2010.