As the drought continues to worsen and water restrictions continue to be enforced, many farmers and ranchers are waiting for their orders to cut back on how much they use.
The largest water cuts in California history are still going on.
CALIFORNIA is a state in the United States. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) decided 5-0 on Aug. 3 to carry out an emergency curtailment order, thereby ending the bulk of the state’s surface water supply to farmers in 2021.
The ruling affects approximately 5,700 water rights holders with around 12,500 water rights from north of Lake Shasta to Fresno, making it the biggest water cut-off in California history.
The ruling specifically forbids water rights holders from diverting surface water for agricultural or farming purposes.
We’re going to get through this together, Atascadero
The SWRCB decided to restrict water to farms, citing a lack of water flow for endangered species and the need to protect water flows for drinking water. River flows must be maintained, according to agency officials, to prevent saltwater from the Pacific from polluting the Delta.
Two weeks after the vote, official curtailment orders were supposed to be handed out and put into effect. However, no notifications have been received as of yet.
Naturally, this isn’t the first time a curtailment order has been issued. It’s nothing new to those who live near the Russian River in Northern California.
However, no other decree has ever impacted as many farmers, including those with pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water rights.
Many people question whether the state has the authority to impose any kind of order on pre-1914 rights holders.
Water Rights Types
A riparian water right is granted to a landowner whose property borders a river and who has the right to utilize the water on his property.
When California was given statehood in 1850, these rights were acknowledged, but the present water rights system was not created until 1914.
In contrast to riparian rights, where the water right remains with the land, an appropriative water right was “appointed” to the owner of the right.
Pre-1914 water rights are appropriative rights that were obtained before to 1914 and do not usually need a permit. Any water right obtained after 1914 is referred to as a post-1914 water right.
Senior water rights relate to the oldest water rights.
When it comes to curtailment orders, junior water rights are usually the first to go. These are the most recent rights granted to the owners.
Senior or riparian water rights are considered to be very uncommon to be restricted.
However, in the past five months, three notification letters have been sent out, informing water rights holders of the approaching circumstances.
Senior water rights holders in the Sacramento and San Juaquin basins were informed on July 23 that supply is inadequate for diversion under certain pre-1914 appropriative claims or some riparian claims, according to a notification.
Water rights holders after 1914 were already subjected to restrictions in April of this year, and they have now been instructed to stop diverting water for agricultural purposes in the Delta.
Owners of water rights on the Scott and Shasta Rivers are now facing a similar restriction.
“While criticisms of California’s water rights are common during droughts among those looking to reshuffle the deck,” the California Farm Water Coalition (California Farm Water Coalition) (CFWC) said in a statement following the vote on Aug. 3, “they shouldn’t ignore our state and federal leaders’ failure to meaningfully prepare for this drought.”
The CFWC is a non-profit educational group that offers the public with fact-based information about agricultural water problems. It was founded in 1989.
“We have to start planning for the next drought yesterday,” said Mike Wade, the coalition’s Executive Director. It might rain like crazy this year, filling our reservoir to capacity, and then people will forget about it.”
Without a curtailment order, “upstream reservoirs are depleted below critical levels—[endangering] irrigation supplies for almost 3 million acres of agriculture should drought persist; into a third year,” according to a press statement from the State Water Board on Aug. 3.
“This is a long-term problem,” Wade says again.
He says that when things are good and water is abundant, people tend to overlook the system’s faults until a drought occurs.
Dairy and beef
The drought’s effects have started to wreak havoc on the cattle and dairy industries. With just a quarter of the forage normally available to cattle, fields throughout California are barren.
Hay sales are higher this year, as they are every year, as everyone scrambles for food to survive through the winter. Naturally, as the hay market becomes more popular, the price of hay rises as well.
Earlier this year, farmers in the Klamath Basin (just across the Oregon border) were cut off from their water source. Irrigation water has been diverted to preserve Klamath tribes’ holy fish. The Klamath Water Wars have erupted as a result of this conflict between farmers and Native American tribes.
The Klamath Basin produced a significant amount of hay that was marketed across California. The supply of hay has decreased due to the lack of that approaching crop.
Truckloads of hay are being sold before bales leave the field due to strong demand.
Its apparent feed will be limited as a result of the year’s poor rainfall. As a consequence, ranchers are often forced to choose between selling and finding feed.
Milking cows has become unprofitable due to the drought drying up pastures and rising feed costs, according to Jennifer Beretta, a dairy farmer in Santa Rosa. Their family has already sold over 40 milking cows and may sell more in the near future.
“You don’t want to go into debt if you can’t afford to feed them,” Beretta added. “It’s terrifying….” You simply attempt to plan for the worst-case scenario.”
Beretta’s comments are likely resonating with many farmers and ranchers right now.
Wade says he’s seeing a lot of farmers getting ready for another dry year.
Fortunately, many crops are nearing the end of their irrigation season and will not need more water. Those who cultivate more mature commodities, on the other hand, must plan their next step.
However, the present water restriction is expected to last until the following growing season, forcing farmers to plan how to get through another year without water.
Farmers and ranchers are now waiting. They’re waiting for the final curtailment orders to come down. I’m waiting to see who will be the next to be cut off.
And after they’ve completed that, they’ll wait for rain once again.
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Bees in Sacramento
California Farm Water Coalition
Press Release from the California Water Board
Claims That Could Be Affected
California Cattlemen’s Association (California Cattlemen’s Association)
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