On 19 May 2014, CSPA and CWIN submitted comments for the State Water Resource Control Board’s (Board) workshop on options for drought related curtailments of post-1914 water rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The Board has proposed a series of options on how to restrict diversions of water from streams during the drought. A workshop on the matter is scheduled for 21 May 2014.
The options, in varying degree, reflect the Board’s desire to maintain a level of exports to the agribusiness plantations of the Southern San Joaquin Valley by the state and federal water projects. However, the water rights of those projects are among the most junior rights in California’s seniority-based system of water rights.
The Board has already significantly reduced flows established to protect water quality and fish during critical dry periods to levels that are not protective of fisheries or water quality. It now seeks to reduce water diversion by upstream senior water rights holders, while allowing water to be supplied to the most junior water south-of-Delta right holders.
CSPA believes a first step to save water is to cease the export of water from the Delta by the state and federal projects, with the exception of water for public health and safety. Second, the Board needs to identify and specify minimum instream flows and reservoir storage levels necessary to protect public trust resources. The Board can then fairly distribute necessary curtailments according to California’s long-established water rights system.