California orders SF, others to stop pumping water during drought

In one of the most far-reaching efforts to protect California’s water supplies this year, state regulators on Tuesday ordered thousands of farmers, irrigation districts and municipal water agencies, including the city of San Francisco, to stop making draws from rivers and creeks.

The move, which comes amid a third year of the California drought, forces water users, from individual landowners to utilities serving tens of thousands of people, to turn to alternative sources of water, if they have it. Some growers and small water suppliers may be forced to go without water entirely.

The action marks an unusually extensive application of the state’s water rights system, a longstanding policy that reserves California’s limited flows for those with the most senior claims to water. Officials with the powerful State Water Resources Control Board said Tuesday’s action was necessary because there’s simply no longer water for everyone. Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the agency’s division of water rights, called the restrictions — known as curtailment orders — “significant” and “very deep.”

The orders, effective Wednesday, apply to those with lesser water rights in the sprawling Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds, basically inland areas from the Oregon border to Fresno. The extent of the water rights affected varies by location, but state records show that a total of 4,252 rights will be curtailed, including those of 212 public water systems.

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