California growers could lose access to water
California's State Water Resources Control Board is proposing an emergency regulation that, if adopted and approved, would affect the ability of water right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed to divert water. The proposed order covers thousands of farmers with direct legal rights to pull water out of the rivers, according to The Sacramento Bee.
The emergency regulation will be presented for review and possible adoption at the State Water Board’s Aug. 3 public meeting. If adopted, the regulation would remain in effect for up to one year but could be repealed if hydrologic conditions improve, or readopted if drought conditions continue through next year.
On May 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency due to drought in 41 counties, including those in the Delta watershed. On July 8, 2021, the Governor issued an expanded Proclamation of a State of Emergency for nine additional counties and called upon Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent compared to the same period in 2020.
On June 15 the State Water Board sent Notices of Water Unavailability to all water right holders in the Delta watershed, alerting all post-1914 appropriative water right holders that the board had determined that water was not available to serve their priorities. The June 15 notice also warned all pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water right claimants in the Delta watershed of impending water unavailability based on worsening drought conditions and the resulting likelihood of consideration of an emergency regulation to curtail water use throughout the Delta watershed.
The proposed emergency regulation would require water right holders in the Delta watershed to curtail their diversions when the State Water Board determines that water is not available to serve certain priorities of water rights. The emergency regulation would also allow the board to require water right holders to provide additional information related to their diversion and use of water.
State Water Board staff will hold a public workshop July 27 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to provide information and to receive public input on the proposed emergency regulation. For more information and instructions to participate, see the Notice of Staff Workshop available under the Announcements section on the Delta Watershed Drought Information website. Interested parties will have the opportunity to provide oral comment at the July 27 staff workshop and at the Aug. 3 board meeting.