Thousands of water rights holders in the Russian River watershed could soon lose access to their water after state regulators approved emergency drought rules on Tuesday.
The State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously to reauthorize the Water Rights Division to issue “reduction orders” for up to 2,000 rights holders to preserve water rights. water of Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino and to protect drinking water supplies and fish populations.
“Climate change-induced drought conditions are not easing, making it critical that we continue to take action to protect the state’s dwindling water supply,” the deputy director of the state said Wednesday. the Water Rights Division, Erik Ekdahl, in a press release.
As the state’s drought drags on into its third year and after enduring the driest January-March period on record, residents across the state are beginning to face water restrictions mandatory and every county in California has an emergency drought proclamation.
The ongoing drought has already resulted in severe water restrictions in California’s two major water storage and distribution systems.
In February, urban and industrial water users in the federal Central Valley project were told they would likely only get 25% of their water allocations and farmers were told they would get nothing from this system. .
The federal system is operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and supplies water to more than 3 million acres of farmland and approximately 2.5 million residents.
In March, the State Department of Water Resources announced that it could supply just 5% of the water requested by the State Water Project, which serves 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland.
If, as expected, state regulators order water rights holders from the Russian River to stop drawing water, it will be the second time in two years that such orders have been issued.
In August 2021, all 861 water rights holders in the Upper Russian River watershed and 222 rights holders in the Lower Russian River were required to stop pumping water.
Currently, Lake Sonoma is only at 37% capacity and Lake Mendocino at 39%.
New rules approved on Tuesday would allow some rights holders in the Upper Russian River watershed to reduce their water use to avoid restrictions.
“If we hadn’t imposed restrictions last year, Lake Mendocino could have gone completely dry,” Ekdahl said.