With water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at historic lows due to the extreme effects of climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board today released a draft curtailment and reporting regulation and scheduled a public workshop on potential measures to preserve stored water for threatened drinking water supplies, prevent salinity intrusion and minimize impacts to fisheries and the environment.
The draft drought emergency regulation (below) prohibits diversions when water supplies are not available under a water user’s priority of right, and allows the State Water Board to require additional information related to their diversions and use. Currently, water is unavailable for approximately 5,700 right holders and claimants. As supplies and demands evolve, diversion requirements would change accordingly.
Mail comments to: Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board, State Water Board, P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000. Written comments must be received by noon July 29.
The board will consider adopting the regulation at its August 3 meeting.
California and the entire Western United States are facing a significant drought in the wake of one the driest periods on record. On May 10, Governor Gavin Newsom expanded a drought proclamation that covers the entire Delta watershed and authorizes the board to implement emergency measures to curtail diversions when water is unavailable under a right holders’ priority of right and to protect releases of stored water. The proclamation was further expanded July 8 to include 50 of the state’s 58 counties and to call on all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15 percent to protect water reserves if drought conditions continue and help maintain critical flows for fish and wildlife.
On June 15, the State Water Board sent letters to approximately 4,300 right holders in the Delta, urging them to stop diverting amid worsening hydrologic conditions, and notified another 2,300 claimants with more senior rights that continued drought could impact their future ability to divert.
With the drought intensifying and likely to continue into next year, staff drafted the emergency regulation to urgently address acute shortages in the watershed, protect storage levels in reservoirs and fairly administer California’s water rights system.