Junior water rights holders on the Scott River and in the San Joaquin River watershed will receive curtailment notices from the California Water Resources Control Board.
The notices to stop diverting water are meant to reserve limited water resources for senior-rights holders on those watersheds. The notices are required by state law.
More than 1,400 junior rights holders on the San Joaquin River watershed and 137 on the Scott River are affected by the notices.
The Scott River is a tributary to the Klamath River and is located in Siskiyou County.
This curtailment affects water-right holders in the San Joaquin River watershed, which covers almost 16,000 square miles and includes the Stanislaus River, Tuolumne River, Merced River, and all other portions and tributaries of the San Joaquin River. A copy of the letter can be found here.
Most of the water rights are for agricultural use. Of the rights holders on the San Joaquin watershed being told to stop their diversions, 85 percent of them list agricultural uses as the only or one of the only uses of that water. On the Scott River that figure is 91 percent.
This marks the second consecutive year that water-right holders on the San Joaquin River watershed, California’s second largest, have been curtailed.
Last year curtailment notices were issued in May to 1,634 water-right holders and remained in effect until November. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland were fallowed and thousands of farmworkers lost their jobs last year due to the drought.
Water right holders under a curtailment notice can still access water previously stored for them in reservoirs. Violations of curtailment notices are subject to fines up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water diverted after the order was issued. The state can also issue cease and desist orders or seek prosecution in court.
The board’s action is based on the most recent reservoir storage levels and inflow projections, along with forecasts for future precipitation.
Conditions in this and other watersheds continue to be monitored and curtailment notices for other watersheds and for senior water right holders in the San Joaquin River may be imminent.
The State Water Board has issued two letters this year warning water right holders that their rights may be curtailed due to the drought.
Last year, the State Water Board issued curtailment notices to about 9,000 diverters on five watersheds statewide.
The State Water Board maintains a web page to assist water right holders in several important watersheds to plan for possible limits on water supply availability.
The web page, titled “Watershed Analysis,” details projected water supply, demand and availability for the watersheds most likely to face restrictions during the drought as demand outstrips available water supply.
Information on the drought is available at the State Water Board’s drought web site.