Junior Rights Holders Told To Stop Diverting; State Board May Consider Senior Rights Cuts
It probably doesn’t mean much to users of the Friant-Kern and Madera canals who are going without Central Valley Project supplies this year but thousands of Central Valley “junior” appropriative water rights holders have received notice to curtail diversions because of the drought.
The May action by the State Water Resources Control Board has been followed by an emergency regulation procedure governing water curtailments.
State Board members were to consider the proposed emergency regulations for adoption at a July 1 meeting in Sacramento (after the FRIANT WATERLINE went to press). Although the action is ostensibly to protect those with senior rights, it has been reported that senior water appropriation might also be curtailed. (Please see related story, at left.)
THOUSANDS OF NOTICES
Some 7,910 curtailment notices have been issued so far this year to California junior water rights holders. Those include 1,634 junior water rights holders in the upper San Joaquin watershed, such as communities in the mountains.
An exception is “health and safety” water for human consumption. Outdoor uses such as irrigating are banned.
Under the proposed regulations, the State Board would adopt what it says would be a more efficient, real-time process for enforcing ongoing curtailments, permitting its staff to act quickly.
Rather than a curtailment notice, the regulations would allow the board to issue an enforceable curtailment order to limit or stop diversions and require reports to ensure compliance.
Without the regulatory action, diverters could potentially delay compliance through procedural measures well into the dry season, or until no water remains, according to a State Board statement.
Violators could be fined $1,000 per day plus $2,500 per acre-foot of water diverted. And farmers would have to stop using water before – not after – they go through the state’s appeal process.
The proposed regulations being considered would continue to recognize and respect local cooperative agreements among water right holders to share available water and avoid curtailment.
These agreements must not result in injury to senior water rights holders or unreasonably harm fish and wildlife.