SAN JOAQUIN DELTA (CBS13) — The State Water Resources Control Board approved a proposal from senior right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to voluntarily cut back water use.
In exchange for the cutbacks, water rights holders received assurances they would not face further curtailment during the June-September growing season.
Senior water rights holders proposed taking a 25 percent cut, whether by using less water, or by letting that percentage of land remain unplanted.
“This proposal helps Delta growers manage the risk of potentially deeper curtailment, while ensuring significant water conservation efforts in this fourth year of drought,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “It allows participating growers to share in the sacrifice that people throughout the state are facing because of the severe drought, while protecting their economic well-being by giving them some certainty regarding exercise of the State Water Board’s enforcement discretion at the beginning of the planting season.”
Delta farmers say there were times this year the San Joaquin River got so low, they could see the bottom. They say they aren’t surprised senior water rights holders are now being asked to conserve.
Farmer Paul Marchini is looking forward to his wheat drying out so he can harvest. He only irrigates twice a year. He says the he and his neighbors haven’t had a problem in the four-year drought.
“We’re in the Delta,” he said. “So, we’ve never had a situation where we’ve had a lack of water.”
Delta farmers have senior water rights, priority access to water, because their land sits in the water.
The farmers aren’t particularly heartbroken about losing the water. One pulled out his walnut grove earlier this year. The fear wasn’t the lack of water, but the quality.
“We’re dealing with a higher salt level,” Marchini said. “Without the freshwater coming from the mountains, we don’t have a way to dilute the salt that comes in from the ocean.”
Farmers would rather lose the water have put saltwater on the ground and potentially ruining the soil for future crops.