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Sacramento, Calif. – With drought conditions continuing into the summer months, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced that there is insufficient water available for senior water right holders with a priority date of 1903 or later in the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds and the Delta.

The need for further curtailment of more senior rights and curtailments in other watersheds is being assessed weekly.

Notices are being sent to water right holders that direct recipients to stop diversions of water to protect more senior water rights and releases of previously stored water, as required by state law.

Diversion of water when water is not available under the right holder’s date of priority is unauthorized and unlawful. Violations are subject to fines up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water unlawfully diverted, cease and desist orders, or prosecution in court.

Senior water right holders with priority dates earlier than 1903 in the affected watersheds can continue to divert water in accordance with their water right. In addition, those who have previously stored water under a valid right may continue to hold that water or release it for beneficial use.

While this is the first time during the current drought that senior water right holders have been given notice that water is not available to serve their water right priority, it is not unprecedented. Some senior water right holders were curtailed during the drought of the late 1970s.

Water Rights Affected by This Notice Today’s curtailment notices affect 276 pre-1914 appropriative water rights held by 114 right holders. These notices do not affect any riparian right holders.

The water rights affected include:

  • On the Sacramento River, 127 water rights with a priority date of 1903 or later are curtailed, affecting water rights held by 86 right holders.
  • On the San Joaquin River, 24 water rights with a priority date of 1903 or later are curtailed, affecting water rights held by 14 right holders.
  • In the Delta, 125 water rights with a priority date of 1903 or later are curtailed, affecting water rights held by 14 right holders.

Uses To be Curtailed
The following uses are listed for the pre-1914 water rights affected by today’s notices:

  • 135 water rights held by 53 right holders for irrigation, stockwatering, and/or livestock as the sole water use; and
  • 208 water rights held by 80 right holders for irrigation, stockwatering, or livestock as at least one of the claimed water uses.

This action is based on reported diversion demands, estimates of natural flows and actual stream flows. Conditions in these and other watersheds continue to be monitored, and curtailment notices for other watersheds and for more senior water right holders in these watersheds may be imminent. Some water right holders may have other, more senior rights to fall back on, or have water stored in reservoirs that they can still access. If that’s not available they will have to find other sources of water, such as groundwater or purchased water, if available. Water right holders are cautioned that groundwater resources are significantly depleted in some areas.

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