State forces water curbs

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

Some local water districts are restricting customers' usage to comply with new state regulations, even though they have enough water in storage to make it through the year.

The State Water Resources Control Board approved measures last week that streamlined the agency's enforcement of recent curtailment orders imposed on thousands of "junior" water rights holders.

The "curtailment orders" have affected some water districts in Calaveras County, but water purveyors in Tuolumne County are not expected to face any further restrictions.

The board began sending out curtailment notices in May to individuals, corporations and public agencies that have water rights secured after the state's current water-rights system was established in 1914. State law stipulates that water rights secured before 1914 have priority over those that were claimed later.

That means the state may suspend these "junior" water rights in drought years to ensure enough water is available for the "senior" water rights holders. After a curtailment order is issued, all diversions from the state's rivers and tributaries must be stopped until further notice.

The board says the curtailment orders are necessary because there is insufficient water available to meet the overall demand this year - the third year of an ongoing drought in California.

More than 7,910 curtailment notices have been sent out to junior water rights holders but only 31 percent had responded by last Tuesday, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. As a result, the board approved measures Tuesday allowing it to issue a fine of $500 per day for noncompliance. A hearing would be required before the fine could be imposed.

For the full story, see the July 8, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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