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SWRCB Notifies Water Users of Potential Shortages; DWR reduces SWP Allocations

SWRCB: Notifies Water Users to Plan for Cutbacks and Conserve Water; Cuts Possible for Junior Appropriators

On Monday, March 22, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Division of Water Rights mailed letters to rights holders regarding the dry conditions in the state, advising water users to prepare for shortages.

The Division of Water Rights observed that current conditions are similar to those of the droughts of 2014 and 2015, noting that 95% of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, reservoir and groundwater levels are significantly below average, and snowpack is only 58% of average.

The letter encourages rights holders to:

  • conserve water;
  • reduce irrigated acreage;
  • manage herd size;
  • use innovative irrigation and monitoring technologies; and
  • diversify water supply portfolios, or take other practical actions to increase drought resilience.

In the same letter, the Division of Water Rights reminds diverters to report annual water use (due April 1, 2021), which “provide[s] critically important information for managing the state’s water resources.”

Additionally, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) sent a notice on March 23, to State Water Project (SWP) contractors advising of the same dry conditions. As a consequence of low precipitation and runoff, DWR has decreased SWP allocations to 5% of long-term contractors’ requested allocations. The last time DWR limited allocations to 5% was in 2014, the same year that the SWRCB imposed emergency cutbacks to junior water rights.

Although further management actions are not yet articulated by SWRCB, the severity of drought could result in cuts to junior appropriators’ water rights. Brownstein will continue to monitor any developments.

Authors

Stephanie Hastings, Shareholder and Laura Yraceburu, Associate

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