San Francisco ordered to stop taking water from river during drought

27 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California Regulators Tell San Francisco To Stop Taking River Water.

May 16, 2012: Photo shows a rainbow forming in the mist from water releases at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on the Tuolomne River in Yosemite National Park, Calif. (AP) The State Water Resources Control Board ordered the cutback in its latest round of notices informing agencies, corporations and individuals holding water rights that waterways are too dry to meet the demand in the drought. SACRAMENTO (AP)— Despite San Francisco’s decade’s-old water rights to the Tuolumne River, state regulators have ordered the city to stop taking some of its water from the river during the drought.

State regulators Friday added to the growing list of water rights holders who have been told to stop drawing from rivers and streams as the drought shrivels summer flows. Officials said the cutback orders don’t apply to water already stored in the reservoir system, which has enough water to last through two more dry years. The Central Valley’s aquifer was described as highly stressed in a new study led by UC Irvine researchers assessing groundwater depletion worldwide.(Photo: AP) State officials once again slashed water use for Northern California farmers on Friday, announcing a new round of cutbacks targeted at people and businesses who laid claim to their water as far back as 1858.

Steve Ritchie, an assistant general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the city will be “in good shape” even if the state orders an end to all of San Francisco’s diversions in the Tuolumne watershed this summer. Friday’s announcement followed through on that warning. “Barring a miracle, we’re going to continue to see curtailment orders issued throughout the summer,” Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, told The Desert Sun earlier this month. The cuts announced Friday affect five water agencies that collectively serve more than 300,000 acres of farmland, as well as Pacific Gas & Electric, a handful of individual water users and Vulcan Materials Company, the nation’s largest provider of gravel and other construction material. The state has already ordered thousands of farmers and others with more recent rights to stop pumping from the Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds. The effect on the power company will be negligible since it can continue to use water for hydroelectric generation as long as the flows are returned to the river.

Some irrigation districts with those prized claims are considering defying the water board and are challenging the cuts in court, saying the agency has no power to regulate their water use. Water rights in California are generally based on how long the person has been diverting the water, and senior rights – those held prior to 1914, when the system was formally established – have been considered largely immune to curtailment.

The Coachella Valley Water District says agriculture accounts for about half of all water use in the area. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun) California has now curtailed more than 9,000 water rights this year, many of them belonging to farmers. But this month’s actions marked the first time since the 1976-77 drought that the state board has moved to stop withdrawals by senior diverters with rights more than a century old. San Francisco is a member of the authority, but Ritchie said that if the city decides to challenge the state order, it would consider filing a separate lawsuit. It also is the sole source for the 12,000 residents of Mountain House, a San Joaquin Valley suburb being developed by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Drought Monitor reported this week that 47 percent of California is currently suffering from “exceptional drought.” About 95 percent of the state is experiencing at least “severe” drought. In its lawsuit, Byron-Bethany said more than $65 million in crops will die if the state’s order is enforced. “The curtailment notice is nothing short of catastrophic,” said district President Russell Kagehiro in a press release.

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