Legal Alerts Jan 27, 2015

State Board Issues Notice of Potential Curtailment of Surface Water Rights Diversions

Recent Rainfall Not Enough to Stop Drought Emergency Measures

State Board Issues Notice of Potential Curtailment of Surface Water Rights Diversions

Despite some rainfall and the temporary lifting of certain 2014 surface water curtailment notices during the fall, the drought emergency in California continues. On Jan. 23, the State Water Resource Control Board issued a Notice of Surface Water Shortage and Potential for Curtailment of Water Right Diversions for the coming year. The Notice warns that, unless precipitation conditions substantially improve, surface water supplies in 2015 will continue to be low. As a result, the State Board expects that curtailment notices may again be issued in the spring or summer, with potential impacts to more than 9,000 water right holders in California.

Under California law, the most recent or junior water right holders are required to discontinue diversion in times of water shortage, before more senior, riparian and pre-1914 water right holders have to do so. While the new Notice does not specify when such curtailment notices will be issued to the affected water rights holders, it is expected that the State Board will follow similar procedures as it did in curtailing water diversions in 2014.

Prior to issuing diversion curtailments in May 2014, the State Board conducted analyses of the Sacramento-San Joaquin, the Russian River and the Eel River watersheds to determine water supply, demand and availability. Similar analyses were conducted after the 2014 curtailment notices were issued to monitor these watersheds and to determine if and when to lift the curtailments.

For the past few months, the State Board has been soliciting recommendations from the public on how to best implement the water rights priority system in times of drought. State Board staff is expected to present its findings and suggested improvements to the State Board by Jan. 31. It is possible that curtailment procedures may change in 2015 based on the staff recommendations.

For more information about how the potential curtailments will affect your agency, please contact one of the attorney authors of this legal alert listed at right in the Environmental Law & Natural Resources or Special Districts practice groups, or your BB&K attorney.

Please feel free to share this Legal Alert or subscribe by clicking here. Follow us on Twitter @bbklaw.

Disclaimer: BB&K legal alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

Continue Reading