Statement from the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the ruling by the Court of Appeal (see here and here):
Water scarcity is one of the most important challenges facing Californians. Ensuring that water districts and others divert and use water consistent with the state’s water right priority system is critical to protecting public health and the delivery system for farms, communities and the environment.
The Sixth District Court of Appeal’s Sept. 12 decision takes a narrow view of the State Water Resources Control Board’s customary enforcement authorities. In doing so, it shields the most senior water right holders (those with appropriative rights developed before 1914) from certain enforcement actions.
Importantly, the court’s decision does not impact the State Water Board’s ongoing drought response actions, including curtailments of senior water rights, which rely on drought emergency regulations. Likewise, it does not impact the board’s authority to take actions against illegal diversions, nor does it preclude the board from taking enforcement measures to protect water released from storage, such as the State Water Project or Central Valley Project.
During the current water crisis, the board has primarily relied on its emergency regulation authority — enhanced by the Legislature in 2014 — and will continue to do so amid increasing threats to the state’s water supply.