Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake is the major source of water along the Sacramento River watershed, storing runoff from three northern California river systems.

California issues second round of irrigation curtailments

Order affects northern California users with junior rights Pit, Feather and American rivers part of latest order  

More water curtailment notices are going out across California, this time to junior rights holders in the Sacramento River watershed and Delta region.

This curtailment affects water-right holders covering almost 27,000 square miles and includes the Pit, Feather and American rivers, and all other portions and tributaries of the Sacramento River.

The notices advise recipients to stop diversions of water and allow it to flow to more senior water-right holders, as required by state law. The order affects over 2,700 separate individuals and entities.

This marks the second consecutive year that junior water-right holders on the Sacramento River Watershed and Delta have been curtailed.

Curtailment notices were issued last week to over 1,600 junior water right holders in the San Joaquin River and Scott River watersheds.

About 77 percent of the water rights receiving the curtailment notices in the Sacramento watershed and Delta list agricultural uses as either the only or one of the uses for the water. Agricultural uses – such as irrigation, stock pond or livestock watering – are listed as the sole water use for 53 percent of the water rights.

California water rights law is based on seniority. Under the state’s water-rights system of “first in time, first in right,” junior water-right holders are those with permits, licenses, registrations and certificates issued after 1914 by the State Water Board and its predecessors, also referred to as “post-1914 appropriative rights.”

In dry years when there isn’t enough water in the system to serve all water-right holders, those with more junior water rights may be required to stop diverting water from rivers and streams before restrictions are imposed on more senior water-right holders.

In the pre-drought years, these water-right holders reported average diversions of five million acre feet from June through September.

Last year due to insufficient flows, these water-right holders were prohibited from diverting any surface water during the same period. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland were fallowed and thousands of farmworkers lost jobs last year due to the drought.

Violations of curtailment notices are subject to fines up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water. Violators can also receive cease and desist orders or prosecution in court.

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