State Water Board Commences Curtailment Program in Response to Statewide Drought


In the past month, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) has issued three curtailment notices to water rights holders pursuant to the Governor’s January 17, 2014 State of Emergency Proclamation addressing critical drought conditions across the State.

On May 27, the Water Board issued a “Notice of Unavailability of Water and Immediate Curtailment” for all holders of post-1914 appropriative water rights diverting from the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. The notice orders post-1914 rights holders to “immediately stop diverting” water under their rights, or face potential fines of $1,000 to $10,000 per day. The notice also advises holders of more senior water rights, including riparian rights and pre-1914 appropriative rights, that their water rights may be curtailed “in the near future” if drought conditions persist. The Water Board’s website indicates that curtailment of “junior pre-1914 water rights” (not defined) is projected to occur between June 1 and June 15, with curtailment of additional pre-1914 water rights projected to occur after June 16, on a basin-wide basis for the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed.

Also on May 27, the Water Board issued a similar, but more limited, notice for the Russian River watershed, which applies only to post-1914 appropriative rights holders with a priority date of February 19, 1954, or later. The May 27 notices follow a May 16 notice of curtailment to “junior priority class” water rights holders diverting from the Scott River watershed.  Like the notice for the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed, the notices covering the Russian River and Scott River watersheds also contain warnings to senior water rights holders that their diversions may be curtailed if drought conditions continue. However, the Water Board’s website does not contain information at this time projecting the timing of future basin-wide curtailments for the Russian River and Scott River watersheds.

Information about the Water Board’s actions responding to the drought, including information on curtailment of water diversions, is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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