California moves to restrict water pumping by pre-1914 rights holders

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For the first time in nearly 40 years, state regulators are telling more than 100 growers and irrigation districts with some of the oldest water rights in California that they have to stop drawing supplies from drought-starved rivers and streams in the Central Valley.

The curtailment order, issued Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board, has been expected for weeks. Earlier this spring, the board halted diversions under some 8,700 junior rights. With snowmelt reduced to a trickle this year, there simply isn’t enough water flowing in rivers to meet the demand of all those with even older rights predating 1914.

And as flows continue to decline this summer, board officials said, they expect to issue more curtailments, stopping river pumping by more senior diverters. Continue reading

Delta’s water vanishing amid drought

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In this photo taken Friday March 27, 2015, low-flow water emitter sits on some of the dry, cracked ground of farmer Rudy Mussi’s almond orchard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Stockton, Calif.

 

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and the prime suspects are farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for generations.

A state investigation was launched following complaints from two large agencies that supply water to arid farmland in the Central Valley and to millions of residents as far south as San Diego.

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At issue is California’s century-old water rights system that has been based on self-reporting and little oversight, historically giving senior water rights holders the ability to use as much water as they need, even in drought. Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if drought continues this system built into California’s legal framework will probably need to be examined. Continue reading