Drought in California: Regulators Vote to Prohibit Water Entry for Hundreds of Farmers Amid Extreme Drought

The California State Water Board unanimously agreed to pass an emergency ordinance prohibiting some farmers from drawing water from rivers and streams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins to irrigate their crops.

Amid one of California’s worst droughts, the Sacramento-San-Joaquin Delta watershed is suffering from low supply as demand continues to grow.

“This drought is very real,” said Karen Ross, secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “It’s a painful moment.”

Under the new ordinance, Californians planning to divert more than 55 gallons per day from rivers or streams in this region must file a petition and proposal for approval with the state’s assistant director. All water rights holders must also report their water use and submit certification to comply with the new standards.

Any person, company or group who violates the order will face potential penalties and fines, officials said. The water authority said enforcement will be gradual and will mainly focus on high-grade water violations that severely affect water flow.

The order must be approved by the Bureau of Administrative Law and submitted to the Foreign Minister before it takes effect, according to a press release from the state water board. The regulations are expected to come into force on August 16, officials said.

The delta is the state’s largest surface water source and, according to regulators, provides two-thirds of Californians with at least some of their drinking water. Officials said the state is experiencing what is expected to be the second driest biennium on record. April, May and June were the warmest and driest since 1896, they said.

During a comment period, local residents admitted the crisis in the state, but some said the action violated due process and urged regulators to slow down enforcement of the order. Some speakers said the ruling puts an unfair burden on most of the smaller farmers who have to prove their rights to water.

In California, the drought has worsened significantly after months of record heat and little rainfall. In the most arid regions, forest fires burn at an incredible rate.

More than 95% of the West are suffering from some drought, almost two-thirds from extreme or exceptional drought – the two worst categories. Six states are completely in drought.

CNN’s Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

Comments are closed.