State Regulators battle Drought, Restrict Water Withdrawal Rights of More Senior Rights Holders

State Regulators battle Drought, Restrict Water Withdrawal Rights of More Senior Rights Holders

The steadfast efforts of California officials to tackle drought conditions seems to challenge the decades-old water rights as the regulators have issued notices in several cities curbing the water rights held by senior diverters. The growing list of curtailed water rights holders had another inclusion on Friday; the city of San Francisco.

The regulations have been issued by the State Water Resources Control Board amidst the drought conditions that have withered summer flows. The board has restricted 16 water rights held by senior diverters.

Though limiting diversion rights of junior rights holders by the state board has been practiced previously as well, restricting withdrawals by senior diverters who have more than a century old rights has happened for the first time since the 1976-77 drought.

The limitation has been imposed on the upper San Joaquin River, the Merced River and recently on the Tuolumne River. The regulations were first issued on June 12 after a board directed more than 100 growers and irrigation districts to stop taking supplies from Central Valley Rivers and streams. These diverters had rights dating back to 1903.

However, the inclusion of San Francisco under the mitigation effort is of little use as the city’s main water source, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is 95% full owing to the spring storms and so the city can fulfil its water demands by fetching water from this reservoir.

The state move have irked many and several irrigation districts along with the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority have sued the board claiming that the state has no authority over pre-1914 water rights.

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