CA water rights hit hard

waterAfter floating the possibility for months, authorities followed through on threatened curtailments on California’s most senior water rights holders.

“The action by the State Water Resources Control Board, after weeks of warnings, affects 114 different water-rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds, as well as the Delta region,” the Sacramento Bee reported. Not since 1977 have restrictions dug so deep into the state’s so-called riparian rights system.

Only the beginning

State officials told the New York Times that further restrictions are all but a foregone conclusion, with reassessments to be conducted on a weekly basis.

“The reductions announced Friday apply to more than 100 water right holders in the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds and delta whose claims to water came after 1903,” reported the Times. “While the cuts will fall primarily on farmers, some will affect small city and municipal agencies, as well as state agencies that supply water for agricultural and environmental use. Water can still be used for hydropower production, as long as the water is returned to rivers.”

FarmDespite the blanket expansion of cuts, some rights holders fared better than others. San Francisco, where rights date to 1901, avoided the strictures for now. Meanwhile, in the state’s agricultural heartland, the pain was sharply felt. According to the Bee, residents drawing water from the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project “have lost about one-third of their water this year. The University of California, Davis, estimates that more than 560,000 acres of farmland will sit idle.”

A different future

Deep into the most serious and protracted challenge of his time in office, Gov. Jerry Brown has tightened the taps with a methodical urgency and a quintessentially Californian sort of spirituality. In recent remarks for the Los Angeles Times, Brown took a cosmic view of California’s future, weaving conservationism and futurism together in an extended metaphor of “spaceship Earth.”

“We are altering this planet with this incredible power of science, technology and economic advance. If California is going to have 50 million people, they’re not going to live the same way the native people lived, much less the way people do today,” said Brown. “You have to find a more elegant way of relating to material things. You have to use them with greater sensitivity and sophistication.”

But Brown affirmed that residents will have to pay for their enlightened approach to growth. “A lot of heavy lifting will be done by local water districts, and that will show up in your water bill,” he told the Times.

To the courts

Not all Californians, of course, share Brown’s vision, or that of the Water Resources Control Board. The result, analysts predicted, would be a flood of litigation. “Within hours of the board’s announcement,” the Los Angeles Times recounted, “officials of the Oakdale Irrigation District in the San Joaquin Valley issued a statement saying that they were ready to seek a court injunction to put a hold on the curtailment.”

Their case appeared to hinge on claims that the WRCB used inadequate information on water use to overstep its regulatory authority. Oakdale Irrigation District chief Steve Knell suggested to the Times that California “doesn’t have the authority to manage pre-1914 rights, nor does the board have accurate data on diversions by junior rights holders.”

But the board blamed the cuts’ rough consequences on the state’s inflexible rights regime. “Those ordered to stop diverting from rivers and streams have other options, including tapping groundwater, buying water at rising costs, using previously stored water or leaving fields unplanted,” officials said, according to the Associated Press. WRCB executive director Thomas Howard was blunt: “It’s going to be different story for each one of them, and a struggle for all of them.”


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  1. ECK
    ECK 14 June, 2015, 21:24

    Hey Jerry, who said we need or want 50 million people! Let’s stop the illegals getting benefits, licenses, etc., stop subsidizing most everything that attracts people (i.e., Covered California). Maybe that will help. And, OK, maybe more folks are inevitable, but get real. The only sane way to deal with this is to STORE MORE WATER (duh).

    Reply this comment
  2. ricky65
    ricky65 15 June, 2015, 13:36

    This cannot end well. How does the Water Resources Control Board have the authority to arbitrarily overturn water rights case laws developed over a hundred years ago?
    Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s has nothing to do with who’s right. It’s all about who has the might.
    BTW, notice all the sacrifice falls on farmers, water companies, cities and humans in general. There are no cutbacks required or allowed to the 50% of all water that goes to the Delta for so called ‘water quality’ and fish like the Delta Smelt. The irony here is that without the dams built by humans, there would almost no water for fish at all. But then this is the insane asylum called California where humans are the lowest creatures on the food chain.

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 15 June, 2015, 15:25

      Water districts are sending out outrageous flyers fear mongering the comrades who in many cases can’t comprehend what is truly happening to them on so many levels.

      Local meetings about water are getting testy. Farmers are laying odd comrades in droves.

      Cannot end well-

      Reply this comment
  3. Dork
    Dork 15 June, 2015, 19:28

    People need to wake up, turn off the TV and learn to read again, All of this was done Intentionally over a long time:

    This statistic, widely parroted by the media and some politicians, is a gross distortion. Of the water that is captured for use, farmers get 40%, cities get 10% and a full 50% goes to environmental purposes — that is, it gets flushed into the ocean. By arbitrarily excluding the huge environmental water diversion from their calculations — as if it is somehow irrelevant to the water crisis — environmentalists deceptively double the farmers’ usage from 40% to 80%.

    Read More At Investor’s Business Daily:
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