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California Water Managers May Limit River Water Diversion For Crops

May 21, 2014

California water officials are considering new rules this week that may prohibit some California farmers from diverting river water to irrigate their crops. (file photo of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River)
Credit State Department of Water Resources

Some California farmers may not be allowed to divert river water to irrigate their crops this summer. The restriction is part of new rules being considered this week by state water managers.

Some members of the Water Resources Control board say suspending water rights is an unavoidable temporary emergency measure caused by the drought.

Felicia Marcus Chairs the Board, and says any limits on water rights should be clearly explained, and narrow in scope.

Marcus : “It just behooves us, if we feel we need to take extraordinary action, that we put in as much limiting and comfort language we can to say what narrow circumstance we mean.”

Board member Dorene D’Adamo backs a federal and state initiative to allow farmers to voluntarily coordinate water diversions and share water. She says Water Board prohibitions may not be necessary.

D’Adamo: “What we really should do instead is trust that they’ve entered into these agreements in good faith. And we want to encourage more growers to enter into these agreements.”

Scientists are concerned that there may not be enough water in Central Valley rivers that Chinook salmon and steelhead need for migration during the summer and fall months.