California’s Governor Jerry Brown has ordered mandatory water cutbacks for farmers as the state continues to be gripped by a drought. In an announcement on Wednesday, Governor Brown said that some farmers would have to reduce their water use by 50 percent. “This is not a time for those who have not suffered from this drought to start celebrating,” Brown said in a statement.
(AP) — SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Due to a severe drought that is endangering the drinking water supply for 25 million people, some farmers in one of the country’s most significant agricultural areas may have to cease drawing water out of key rivers and streams, state authorities said Tuesday.
On a farm in Fresno, Calif., on July 24, 2021, the dry and cracked earth in an irrigation canal adjacent to a cornfield. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
The Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency resolution giving authorities the authority to stop diversion from the state’s two major river systems. Approximately 86 percent of landowners with legal rights to divert water from the San Joaquin and Sacramento river basins may be affected by the decree. If circumstances grow worse, the remaining 14% may be affected.
The regulation won’t go into force for another two weeks, and it has exceptions for certain purposes including drinking water, cooking, cleaning, sanitation, and power generation. Officials cautioned that if the drought persists into next year, most of the state’s drinking water supply will be jeopardized without the order.
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“This decision isn’t about favoring one group over another; it’s about protecting the watershed for everyone,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, head of the Control Board’s Water Resources Committee.
The decision came only one day after officials stopped water diversions from the Upper Russian River in Northern California, warning that Lake Mendocino would be dry by the end of the year, placing “both humans and wildlife at jeopardy.”
The decision on Tuesday is important because it affects the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems, which together drain 40% of California’s land and provide at least a third of the state’s roughly 40 million people with water.
NEWSOME REQUESTS WATER CONSERVATION FROM CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS AS THE DROUGHT EXTENDS TO 9 MORE COUNTIES NEWSOME REQUESTS WATER CONSERVATION FROM CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS AS
The river systems that make up the California Delta receive their water mainly from snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The previous two years were the driest on record. Because the land was so dry, most of the snowmelt that was meant to flow into the state’s rivers was absorbed. This year, California has lost so much water in this manner that it would almost fill Folsom Lake.
Extreme weather patterns are often produced by a mix of unique random, short-term, and natural weather patterns, which are exacerbated by long-term, human-induced climate change. In the last 30 years, climate change has made the West considerably warmer and drier, increasing the danger of drought and wildfires.
The board’s move is allowed because to an emergency declaration made by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year. Newsom, who is up for re-election next month, has urged households and businesses to reduce their water usage by 15% on a voluntary basis.
Newsom’s administration has also loosened regulations regarding the amount of water that must be accessible in rivers and streams for environmental reasons. They’ve also constructed a stone wall in the West False River to keep saltwater from the Pacific Ocean from infiltrating freshwater rivers and polluting the water supply.
According to Lisa Hong, an engineer with the Water Resources Control Board, demand for water from the San Joaquin River watershed is approximately 16 times the available supply, while demand for water from the Sacramento River watershed is around three times the availability.
“The reality is that water resources throughout the state are very restricted, and we are running out of options,” Ernest Conant, regional director of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, said. On Tuesday, he informed the board that he supported the new regulation.
The regulation empowers state regulators to enforce it, including the imposition of penalties for violation. According to Erik Ekdahl, deputy head of the division of water rights, the state is recruiting 15 employees to assist with enforcement.
According to Ekdahl, the state will primarily react to complaints about individuals who violate the regulations. According to him, the state receives around 50 complaints each year. During the drought, however, that number has risen to about five each day.
According to Chris Scheuring, senior counsel for the California Farm Bureau, farmers are “disappointed” and “dismayed.”
“Farmers, on the whole, are aware of drought and poor rain years. “We’re in the business of that,” he said. “However, they are unaware of the systemic decline in water dependability that we are seeing in California.”
California’s complicated water rights system will determine who is most affected. People who have had water rights for the longest will be the least affected.
The Westlands Water District, one of the country’s biggest agricultural water districts, supports the new regulation since it would prevent individuals from illegally collecting water from rivers and streams, according to the district. The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, on the other hand, opposes the regulation, calling it “overly broad” and asking water consumers to put their confidence in the government to manage their systems.
Valerie Kincaid, an attorney with the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, stated, “I believe there is a basic problem with trust.”
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