Thursday, September 23

Rare California Water Restrictions Hit Farmers Amid Severe Shortage | Climate crisis in the American West


Faced with severe water shortages and a severe drought, California has taken steps to enact emergency restrictions that will prevent thousands of farmers and landowners from using water drawn from a huge stream and river system that supplies nearly two-thirds of the state.

Regulators of the water resources control board, which oversees the state’s water allocation, voted unanimously Tuesday to stop diversions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a vast watershed that stretches from Fresno to the Oregon border. This unprecedented action will mainly affect those who use water for agricultural irrigation purposes, the Los Angeles Times reported. The restrictions will force some farmers to rely on alternative supplies, such as groundwater wells. But the time of the order, which will take effect in two weeks, It could save many farmers from hardship, as increased agricultural demand in the basin tends to fall in late spring and summer, the newspaper said.

“This decision is not about giving priority to one group over the other, but about preserving the watershed for all,” said E Joaquín Esquivel, president of the board.

The drought has devastated California and the western US overall, leaving reservoirs dangerously low, putting pressure on the state’s agricultural industry and threatening the power source of hydroelectric plants. Most people in the state are now living under a drought emergency declaration. State Governor Gavin Newsom recently asked residents to reduce their water use by 15%.

Earlier this week, the state took similar steps to protect fragile water supplies. On Monday, authorities ordered a halt to water diversions from the Russian river in Northern California.

Regulators say that without the latest order, a substantial portion of California’s drinking water supply would be in jeopardy if the drought continued into the next year. The order, which could affect as many as 5,700 water rights holders, includes exceptions for uses such as drinking, sanitation and electricity generation.

Those who do not comply with the order could be subject to fines of up to $ 1,000 per day, as well as $ 2,500 per acre-foot of illegally diverted water, Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the board’s water rights division. he told CalMatters.

The delta, the state’s largest surface water source, receives most of its water from snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada, but in some of the driest years on record, dry soil absorbed much of the melt that normally flows. towards the state rivers. Demand for water has not slowed down and is far outpacing supply: demand is about 16 times the supply available for the San Joaquin River basin and about three times the supply available for the Sacramento River basin, Lisa Hong, engineer of the Water Resources Control Board, told the Associated Press.

California has cut water rights only a handful of times in the past, but it will likely become more routine as the climate crisis worsens, Jay Lund, co-director of the UC Davis Watershed Science Center, told the LA Times.

The move has “discouraged” and “dismayed” farmers, said Chris Scheuring, senior adviser for the California Farm Bureau.

“In general, farmers understand drought and they understand years of low rainfall. That is the business we are in, ”he said. “But they don’t understand the drop in water reliability that we’re facing in California, kind of on a systemic level.”


www.theguardian.com

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