San Francisco prohibited from accumulating river water in the reservoirs due to …

28 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California Regulators Tell San Francisco To Stop Taking River Water.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Regulators on Friday told San Francisco to stop taking some of the river water it routinely stores in the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.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. The State Water Resources Control Board ordered the cutback under its latest round of notices that waterways are too dry to meet demand in the drought. 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.

San Francisco has numerous century-old rights to the Tuolumne River, including one established when the mayor famously nailed a notice on a tree in 1902. The action will have little practical effect on San Francisco because the city can continue to draw from its main water source, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is 95% full, thanks in part to spring storms. 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. The state agency acknowledged that it should have curtailed those rights two weeks ago, when it delivered orders to those holding water rights from 1903 or later.

The state has already ordered thousands of farmers and others with more recent rights to water from the Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds to stop pumping. 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 district supplies water to farmers in three counties and to the 12,000 residents in the community of Mountain House. “Enough is enough,” said Russell Kagehiro, president of the district’s board, adding that California farmers feed the state and country. “It is irresponsible and unnecessary.

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. 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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