Worsening drought conditions in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta prompted the State Water Resources Control Board to send notices of water unavailability to approximately 4,300 right holders in the watershed last week.
The notices, state the Delta watershed’s supply is “insufficient” and “not lawfully available” for users with claims to the water dating after 1914, and those who keep pumping could face a cease and desist order and fines of up to $1,000 a day. The letters also inform approximately 2,300 water users with more senior rights that continued drought later this summer could impact their ability to divert.
“Due to severe drought in the West, the water supply in many parts of California, including the Delta watershed, is not enough to meet demands,” said Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the Division of Water Rights. “We do not come to this decision easily. We are asking people to reduce their water use, and we recognize this can create hardships. However, it’s imperative that we manage the water we still have carefully as we prepare for months, perhaps even years, of drought conditions.”
Similar warnings were sent over the past several weeks to 102 water rights holders on the Scott River basin in Siskiyou County and 930 water rights holders in the upper Russian River basin. Then last week. state regulators adopted emergency regulations that could restrict diversions for 2,400 water right holders in the Upper and Lower Russian River as early as July 5.
Ekdahl told the media that it is probably the worst drought Northern and Central California have seen in 45 years.