California Water Board Blocks Farmers from Diverting Water from Delta Watershed

In an aggressive move to address “immediate and dire water shortages,” California’s water board on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency regulations to temporarily stop thousands of farmers, landowners and others from diverting water from from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.

The new regulations — the first to take such widespread action for the massive Delta watershed stretching from Fresno to the border with Oregon — could lead to formal curtailment orders for about 5,700 water rights holders as soon as Aug. 16. The Aug. 3 decision comes on the heels of curtailment orders issued to nearly 900 water users along the drought-stricken Russian River, with 222 more expected next week.

The five water board members, who were appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom or former Gov Jerry Brown, approved the rule despite vehement opposition from representatives of Central Valley growers.

Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield, said the regulation would “disrupt the critical production of essential food…Instead, the state should focus on expanding water storage and upgrading its existing water infrastructure, not punish local water managers.”

Assemblymember Adam Gray, a Democrat from Merced, called the curtailment orders for senior water rights holders “one of the most destructive measures possible.”

“The board’s legal authority is by no means certain,” Gray wrote to the board. “Growers will have to risk significant fines and penalties just to find out whether the Board actually has the authority it claims. Either way, they lose.”

Water users who continue to divert could face penalties of up to $1,000 per day plus $2,500 per acre-foot of illegally diverted water, according to Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the board’s division of water rights.

“Growers will have to risk significant fines and penalties just to find out whether the Board actually has the authority it claims. Either way, they lose.”

Most of California is experiencing an extreme drought, with May and June the warmest and driest on record since 1896. Lake Oroville, one of California’s largest reservoirs, is expected to reach a new historic low in October.

Demand for water from rivers and streams has outstripped supply 16-fold in the San Joaquin River watershed and three-fold in the Sacramento River, according to State Water Resources Control Board staff. Dwindling flows risk salty backwash from the Pacific tainting supplies for drinking, farmers and fish.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, told the water board that “this year there’s plenty of pain to go around.

“Mother Nature and climate change have brought us the situation that we have. And therefore the decisions that you have to make have very real impacts on people. But not making these decisions would have even more horrendous impacts for people,” Ross said.

A representative of the Westlands Water District, which relies on stored federal water supplies that flow through the Delta, said he supported the water board’s regulations.

“They will protect transfer water that’s been acquired to help mitigate, in part, the impacts of drought,” said Jon Rubin, assistant general manager and general counsel. “They will also help protect stored water and for those reasons Westland supports the resolution that’s been presented.”

Supplies of up to 55 gallons per person per day for minimum human health and safety needs, such as drinking and household use, are exempted from the curtailments.

The City of Vallejo urged the water board in a public comment letter to increase the 55 gallon cap, or change the way it’s calculated. The limit is “too rigid,” said Vallejo water operations manager Beth Schoenberger “and will be very difficult to implement in areas without a firm population count.”

Rachel Becker is a reporter with CalMatters.

9 Comments

  1. Decades of water MIS-management by One-Party Rule CA Politicians looking to serve their EnviroSpecial Interest groups and sacrifice CA residents & the farming (food sustainment) industry. Well enjoy the Power Blackouts this summer/fall if it stays hot. Looks like “renewable energy” will FAIL CA for another year – just like Germany saying they will shutdown nuclear and fossil fuel and go renewable and then are begging Russia for Fossil Fuel pipelines.

    Gavin New(TAX)som may not care about Water, Fires, and Energy but he will ensure that CA is Open for the Nation’s Homeless (with Biden’s OPEN BORDER – maybe CA will support the world’s homeless) – pledging $12 billion to combat homelessness on top of billions that have already been spent (with no progress towards reducing the problem).

    “California’s diminishing water supply is cutting down hydropower, causing the state to rely more on fossil fuels”
    24Jun2021: …the water level in Lake Oroville – CA’s 2nd largest reservoir – is approaching water levels that will force shutting down one of the state’s largest HydroElectric Power Plants for the first time since it was built in 1967.

    “With meteorologists anticipating a hot, fiery summer, experts say that cuts to hydropower will increase pressure on the state’s already-stressed power grid, as residents across the region crank up their air conditioners. And as drought desiccates the west, the state’s increasing reliance on gas-fired plants could also compromise its goal of transitioning to carbon-free electricity.”

  2. AccuWeather reports a snow survey in California revealed that the state only received about 50% of its average precipitation during the 2021 water year, tying it for its third-driest on record.

    As for water storage, AccuWeather says:

    Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface-level reservoir, recorded 65% of what is considered average.

    Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir within the State Water Project, a 700-mile-long water storage and delivery system, is at 53% of average. The State Water Project supplies water for over 27 million people and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.

    Statewide, Sean De Guzman, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, said the largest reservoirs are holding around half of their total capacity. When current snowpack melts, reservoirs in the state are still only expected to be filled up to 58% of average capacity.

    What they don’t say is that the state has been letting water out of reservoirs across California for months now. And it’s not going to farmers, growers, ranchers or urban use. Environmental policy says the water “flows” from reservoirs are necessary to produce a rebound of endangered Delta smelt and Chinook salmon. However, these policies are a failure as neither species have been collected in all of the latest trawling surveys, where they spend several days a month searching in more than 200 spots. This practice of releasing water and hoping fish improve, has been unsuccessful for nearly 30 years, according to Kristi Diener, a California water expert and third-generation Central Valley farmer. Both species are close to extinction.

    Meanwhile, as the reservoir water flows are not saving fish at all, the State of California has known we are heading into a multi year drought. But northern reservoir managers have continued to release water through the Delta, and into the Pacific Ocean anyway.

    Diener explains what is really going on in her “California Water for Food and People Movement:”

    “Less than two years ago, every reservoir in the state was brimming with water, and held a supply to last a minimum of five dry years without another drop of rain. Shasta and Oroville by themselves held enough water to meet the needs of 80 million people for a year. With 25 million receiving water from these sources, those two reservoirs alone could deliver water for more than three years. But the majority of that stored water has been released to the ocean for ongoing environmental causes that have not benefitted a single endangered fish. Water managers claim the problem is families are not conserving enough. They are now recommending only using water for drinking and sanitation, and to stop watering any landscape that is not edible. Many property owners are already trucking in water.”

    “50% of California’s water supply goes to environmental uses, 40% is converted to the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and the remaining 10% is for urban use. Families did not waste their way into a water shortage and cannot conserve their way out. Saving 25% of a 10% use equals 2.5%. Ongoing water releases continue to put fish over people, and both are suffering. More water rights holders than ever before are about to receive stop-using-water notices.”

    “There is no accountability whatsoever to show positive results for the water continuously taken from the human supply. The governor appointed peeps in the CDFW spend hundreds of millions of our dollars on everything from studies and monitoring, to decades of supposed habitat restoration. They have failed the fishing industry big time, in addition to drying up the water supply for farmers and families.”

    Just last year in February 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an order to divert water in Northern California from the San Francisco Bay area to the Central Valley, to help farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley get access to more water after years of inadequate amounts of water and generally poor water quality. The order was widely seen as likely since in the last several months protections on some central and northern California fish populations, such as the chinook salmon, were lifted in October of last year as California Globe reported.

    In October 2018, President Trump signed a memorandum on “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West” which included guidance and direction on the process. (DOI news release) In the President’s memorandum, he says “Decades of uncoordinated, piecemeal regulatory actions have diminished the ability of our Federal infrastructure, however, to deliver water and power in an efficient, cost‑effective way,” also warning that unless addressed right now, “fragmented policies and fragmented regulation of water infrastructure will continue to produce inefficiencies, unnecessary burdens, and conflict among the Federal Government, States, tribes, and local public agencies that deliver water to their citizenry.”

    As California Rep. Tom McClintock has said for years, “droughts are naturally occurring, water shortages are man-made.” He also has warned for many years, “We live in one of the most water-rich regions of the country – yet we have not built a major reservoir in this state since 1979. Meanwhile, the population has nearly doubled. The sad, simple fact is that we will NEVER solve our water problems until we start building new dams once again.”

    Visit California Department of Water Resources for current Reservoir conditions.

    Precipitation data, real time, daily and monthly records are located at the California Data Exchange Center website.

  3. The Farmers and Ranchers should get adequate water supplies to maintain the agricultural sector of California’s economy.

    Almond and rice producers will have to consider and implement additional creative water re-uses for their crops.

    For California cities…you should be clambering the elected Dufi for Desalination facilities using COVID BORROWED MONEY to build them instead of giving free money to worthless morons.

    Recall Governor Newsom with extreme prejudice!

    David S. Wall

  4. NWS you final recognized:

    “AccuWeather reports a snow survey in California revealed that the state only received about 50% of its average precipitation during the 2021 water year, tying it for its third-driest on record.

    As for water storage, AccuWeather says:

    Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface-level reservoir, recorded 65% of what is considered average.

    Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir within the State Water Project, a 700-mile-long water storage and delivery system, is at 53% of average. The State Water Project supplies water for over 27 million people and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.”

    BUT YOUR INFORMATION IS OUT OF DATE REGARDING LEVELS HERE IN JULY 12 REPORT FROM NASA OBSERVATORY THE REPORT TITLED “California Reservoirs Reflect Deepening Drought “ HERE (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148447/california-reservoirs-reflect-deepening-drought ) LAKE SHASTA IN THIS REPORT IS AT 41% TOTAL CAPACITY AND ONLY 49% OF SEASONAL LEVELS. LAKE OROVILLE IS REPORTED AT 35% TOTAL CAPACITY AND ONLY 43% OF SEASONAL AVERAGE. PLEASE DO NOT USE OLD OR INACCURATE INFORMATION?

  5. NWS you again reposted the article from biased resources with conflicts of interest .

    You first used the story titled “Despite record-breaking drought conditions, California officials are draining reservoirs” from a website called “NATURAL NEWS” which is not a SCIENCE JOURNAL. THE SOURCE IS HERE (https://www.naturalnews.com/2021-05-27-record-breaking-drought-california-officials-draining-reservoirs.html) IT IS A POLITICAL PRIVATE WEB PRODUCTION as described here:

    NATURAL NEWS IS NOT A REPUTABLE INFORMATION RESOURCE AT ALL IF YOU READ HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES:

    “Natural News is a science-based natural health advocacy organization led by activist-turned-scientist Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.

    The key mission of Natural News is to empower consumers with factual information about the synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, hormone disruptors and other chemicals found in foods, medicines, personal care products, children’s toys and other items.

    Natural News covers holistic health, nutritional therapies, consciousness and spirituality, permaculture , organics, animal rights, environmental health, food and superfoods , and performance nutrition.

    The site strongly criticizes drugs-and-surgery medicine, vaccines, corporate corruption, animal testing, the use of humans for medical experiments, the chemical contamination of foods, heavy metals in consumer products, factory farming and government corruption.”

  6. NWS you again reposted the article from biased resources with conflicts of interest .

    IN OTHER WORDS, IT IS NOT A RECOGNIZED RESEARCH RESOURCE, IT IS NOTHING BUT A PRIVATE PUBLICATION IMITATING A NEWS RESOURCE. I WOULD THINK THE READERS HERE SHOULD SEE IT FOR THEMSELVES, RIGHT? PLEASE LOOK HERE (https://www.naturalnews.com/Index.html) IN FACT THIS RESOURCE SEEMS TO BE AN ANTI-VACCINATION WEBSITE. AND THIS REPORT USES A PERON NAMED KRISTI DIENER CLAIMING HER TO BE A WATER MANAGEMENT EXPERT. BUT IN REALITY SHE WAS JUST A FARMER WITH NO EDUCATION IN WATER MANAGEMENT, NOR ANY SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE. AND ALMOST THE EXACT SAME QUOTES AS KATY GRIMES USED IN HER WRITING FOR ANOTHER PRIVATE PUBLICATION, NOT A SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL, CALLED THE CALIFORNIA GLOBE TITLED “Water And Drought Deceit: More Dubious Policies California Lawmakers Continue To Perpetrate”. KATY GRIMES WHO SELLS A BOOK ON AMAZON TITLED “California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses? “ AND IS DESCRIBED AS:

    “”California’s War Against Donald Trump” takes a thorough, analytical look into the clash between Donald Trump’s policies and those of California’s liberal leaders who have mounted a vigorous “resistance,” and reveals just who is winning, and losing, from all the political grandstanding. With hundreds of references cited, dealing with subjects spanning sanctuary city policies, to “The Wall,” to healthcare, education, the temporary travel ban, federal regulatory policy, thwarting enforcement of immigration laws, and especially climate change, the battle between liberal Democrats in Sacramento and Trump and the Republicans in control in Washington, D.C. is vividly detailed, FROM A PERSPECTIVE THAT AGREES WITH TRUMP THAT CALIFORNIA IS “OUT OF CONTROL,” AND THAT POLITICIANS WOULD DO MUCH BETTER FOR THE STATE BY DROPPING THE HOSTILITY AND FINDING SOME SORT OF COMMON GROUND.”

    IN FACT SHE IS ALSO A WRITER FOR BREITBART, HARDLY A WELL RECOGNIZED JOURNALISTIC OUTFIT.

    THIS IS NOTHING BUT A POLITICAL PRESS RELEASE DISGUISED AS A NEWS REPORT, PURE AND SIMPLE.

    GIVE US SOME SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH WITH COMPLETE DISCLOSURE OF ANY CONFLICT OF INTERESTS, IF THEY HAVE ANY? OTHERWISE, YOUR POLLUTING THE INTERNET WITH MISINFORMATION.

  7. aren’t we building a 2 acre hobby farm in the middle of “decades long housing crisis” Silicon Valley that will grow $40000 a year of food at a loss and somehow water’s not an issue

    but we are cutting off THEEE essential component of a $50B industry so we can keep the ocean from doing what it does?

    when will you people stop your feelz-a-thon and think? Think with like weighted parameters?

  8. But they’re not growing alfalfa, rice, or evil almonds on that trendy urban farm.

    Besides, water counts less for feeding a nation and more than for New Homes.

  9. NOT HIM You wrote:

    “aren’t we building a 2 acre hobby farm in the middle of “decades long housing crisis” Silicon Valley that will grow $40000 a year of food at a loss and somehow water’s not an issue”

    BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THAT IS A CRITICAL QUESTION, AND I THINK THE ANSWER IS THAT THE PROJECT WILL BE DROPPED. BECAUSE THE SHORTAGE OF WATER WILL FORCE THAT PART OF IT TO BE KILLED. BUT AT LEAST YOU KNOW I AM OPEN TO YOUR INFORMATION AND THAT ONE WAS RIGHT ON TARGET. You WROTE:

    “but we are cutting off THEEE essential component of a $50B industry so we can keep the ocean from doing what it does?”

    HERE IS AN INTERESTING MAJOR PROBLEM YOU DISCLOSE AS WELL, THAT THE SO-CALLED HI-TECH INDUSTRY IS IN THE TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND THE AGRICULTURE BUSINESS ONLY POSSIBLE APPROACHES $100 BILLION. AND THAT IF THIS PATTERN DOES NOT GET REVERSED, THE AGRIBUSINESS WILL HAVE TO RELOCATE TO ANOTHER AREA OF THE COUNTRY. I AM NOT GOD, I CANNOT PREDICT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THE RECENT FIRES ARE MAKING WATER COLLECTION AND RETENTION IMPOSSIBLE FOR CALIFORNIA. THUS WE BETTER START BUILDING DESALINATION STATIONS FAST.

    NOT SUCKERED You WROTE:

    “But they’re not growing alfalfa, rice, or evil almonds on that trendy urban farm.

    Besides, water counts less for feeding a nation and more than for New Homes.”

    THE REALLY BIZARRE REALITY IS THAT DEVELOPERS DON’T EVEN TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WATER SUPPLY RESTRICTIONS, THEY BUILD ON THE HOPES OF MAKING A PROFIT AFTER THE PROJECT IS DONE. THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS HOPE THAT THE PROPERTIES WILL RESULT IN IMPROVED REVENUES. BUT THIS SITUATION MAY RESULT IN MORE PROJECTS BEING CANCELLED, OR DEVELOPERS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS BECAUSE INVESTORS ARE GOING TO SEE THIS PROBLEM AND SAY, I AM OUT.

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