LOS ANGELES – The Latest on Thursday's announcements regarding California's drought (all times local):
California is easing water cutbacks for millions as a rainy winter lessens the state's five-year drought.
The state Department of Water Resources announced Thursday it will now be able to provide farmers and other customers with 45 percent of the water they requested this year.
It's the third such increase in recent months. During the driest years of the drought, the agency gave customers as little as 5 percent of what they requested.
The state has been steadily increasing its water allocations this year as winter storms bring snowpack to the Sierra Mountains and rain to Northern California reservoirs.
The state's loosening of water cutbacks Thursday could affect up to 25 million Californians and just under a million acres of irrigated farmland.
Virtually all of California remains in some level of drought but weekly monitoring data show modest improvement after a stormy early March in northern parts of the state.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says that as of Tuesday, 73.6 percent of the state was in a severe or worse drought, down from 83.1 percent a week earlier. But as a whole, more than 99.5 percent of California remained at one of the five levels of drought.
The worst of the categories — exceptional, extreme and severe — edged down between 1.8 and just under 4 percentage points.
Exceptional drought remained the largest category, however, spanning more than 34.7 percent of California.
There were increases in the percentages of the two lowest categories — moderate drought and abnormally dry.