Westlands Water District alleges water being acquired through transfers and exchange agreements is being unlawfully diverted by south and/or central Delta diverters, General Manager Thomas Birmingham alleges in a letter written to Barbara Evoy, Deputy Director of the Division of Water Rights at the State Water Resources Control Board.
In the letter, Birmingham alleges that the water for which Westlands farmers are paying unprecedented prices for is very likely being unlawfully diverted by south and central Delta diverters who are improperly claiming riparian or pre-1914 rights. Some of these diverters are claiming dates of priority of 1800, before the Delta was reclaimed, or other questionable assertions, he points out. “We find it hard to accept that Westlands’ staff were able, after minimal effort, to discover so many examples of these,” he writes.
“Westlands believes that the Delta Watermaster and the current water rights enforcement have failed to achieve any meaningful compliance with the legislative mandate to collect information through statements of diversion and use from water users in the Delta,” the letter states. “The statements of diversion and use supplied in the letter submitted by DWR and Reclamation under exhibit 1 represent a sample of what is – at best – questionable assertions, and what – at worst – amounts to a flagrant disregard for the law.”
The impacts of these unlawful diversions are falling hard on the shoulders of Westlands’ farmers and families; Westlands farmers are operating close to failure, with the impacts not only felt by famers but by farmworkers and throughout the community at large, the letter says.
“In summary, Westlands pleads that, between the data readily available to the State Water Board and the information set forth in the letter submitted by DWR and Reclamation, the State Water Board has sufficient cause to find that stored and transfer water is being unlawfully diverted by south and likely central Delta diverters. On that basis, we respectfully request that, as the Deputy Director for the Division of Water Rights, you use the authority granted you under the recently adopted Emergency Regulations, Title 23 to the California Code of Regulations, section 879(c), and order south and central Delta diverters claiming riparian and pre-1914 water rights to provide the State Water Board with information that (1) supports the basis of any asserted right or rights, and (2) reflects the quantity of water diverted and expected to be diverted.”
Read the full text of the letter here: Westlands SWRCB EmergencyRegulations Letter Final (2)