With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. proclaimed a State of Emergency on Jan. 17, 2014 and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions.
The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) administers California’s water rights system and is closely monitoring water availability. The water rights system is designed to provide for the orderly allocation of water supplies in the event that there is not enough water to satisfy everyone’s needs. In the coming weeks and months, if dry weather conditions persist, the State Water Board will notify water right holders in critically dry watersheds of the requirement to limit or stop diversions of water under their water right, based on their priority. The right to divert surface water in California is based on the type of right being claimed and when the right was initiated. In times of drought and limited supply, the most recent (“junior”) right holder must be the first to discontinue use. Some riparian1 and pre-19142 water right holders may also receive a notice to stop diverting water if their diversions are downstream of reservoirs releasing stored water and there is no natural flow available for diversion.
If you are in a water short area, you should be looking into alternative water supplies for your water needs. Alternative supplies include groundwater wells, purchased water supplies under contractual arrangements, and recycled wastewater. Water right holders are cautioned that groundwater resources are significantly depleted in some areas. Water right holders in these areas should make planting and other decisions accordingly.
Should significant precipitation occur in the next few months the need to curtail water diversions may be made unnecessary. However, this notice is to encourage you to plan ahead. Whether you are a water right holder or a residential or business customer of a water service provider, all of California’s water users are urged to conserve and use water wisely.