(CN) – California water officials lifted restrictions on Friday for certain Sacramento Valley and delta farmers who have senior water rights.
Because there is currently sufficient water available to meet demands, the State Water Resources Control Board is allowing those who have pre-1914 water rights with a priority date of 1903 or later in the Sacramento and Feather River watersheds and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to begin diverting water again.
The decision affects 238 water rights-holders who had their rights curtailed on June 12, the first time since 1977 that California had cut off any senior rights.
Between April and July of this year, insufficient water led to the board issuing curtailment notifications to more than 9,300 water rights-holders in five Northern California watersheds.
Mike Wade with the California Farm Water Coalition told Courthouse News that there are some positive signs from the relaxation of the water-rights curtailments.
“While it doesn’t help this year’s farm crop, it will help farmers with some permanent crops and vineyards that may get one last irrigation in now before their trees and vines go into the dormant season,” he said.
“It’s nice to see the curtailments lifted and hopefully we’ll get a wet winter,” Wade added.
Other rights-holders remain under curtailment orders, including junior rights-holders and those who hold senior rights to the Yuba, American and San Joaquin watersheds.
Friday’s notification comes as a result of the water board’s analysis of the full natural flow for each of the watersheds. The flow was higher due primarily to reduced monthly diversions, the water board said.
The water board will continue to monitor weather forecasts and stream gauges to determine whether more water rights-holders will be able to begin diverting again.
Several agricultural districts have taken the state to court, questioning its authority over their senior water rights.
On Aug. 3, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang struck down a group of water districts’ request for an injunction, ruling that the water board’s revised curtailment notices constituted due process.
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