Thousands of farms in California ordered to stop pumping water

Thousands of farms across the state of California have been ordered to stop pumping river water to irrigate crops for a second straight week.

California is currently in the fourth year of an unprecedented drought. Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages.

According to Tim Moran, a spokesman for the State Water Resources Board, over 2,700 water-rights holders (mostly farmers) along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Sacramento River have been told to stop pumping.

Last week 1,611 farmers along other river systems in Northern California were similarly forced to stop pumping.

California Drought

According to the California State Water Resources Control Board:

“California water rights law is based on seniority. 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.

“Approximately 5,740 junior water-rights in the Sacramento River watershed and Delta held by 2,772 individuals and entities will receive curtailment notices.

“Curtailment notices were mailed out last week to 1,611 junior water right holders in the San Joaquin River and Scott River watersheds.”

Those who fail to follow the curtailment notices may be subject to fines up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water, cease and desist orders, or even prosecution in court.

The state has also warned senior-rights holders (those with a higher priority to pump water) that if the drought persists they may also have to stop pumping.