On October 27, 2015, the California State Water Resources Control Board (the “Water Board”) issued a notice to all pre-1914 water rights holders for the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds and Delta, indicating that water is available for diversion. The Water Board based its determination upon projections of precipitation and runoff estimates as forecasted by the National Weather Service, the volume of unimpaired water supply based upon calculations by the California Department of Water Resources and the overall reduced demand for water, which is typical at this time of year.
The Water Board said it would continue to monitor weather forecasts and streamflow to determine if additional diversions will be allowed or expanded to include post-1914 water rights holders. 2014 and 2015 continue to be record drought years in California. On November 2, 2015, the Water Board modified its curtailment notice to allow water rights holders to divert until November 6. The Water Board will continue to monitor the situation and extend diversion rights consistent with hydrology.
This announcement partially eliminates curtailment orders issued by the Water Board in the late spring of 2015. Pursuant to those announcements, the Water Board began curtailing post-1914 water rights and eventually curtailed certain senior pre-1914 water rights holders from diverting water within the Bay Delta Watershed. Some of the curtailment orders issued by the Water Board are the subject of litigation in the state courts of California and before the Water Board itself. The state litigation is in its earliest stage and is likely to drag on for many months, at a minimum. In California, 1914 is the year that the predecessor to the Water Board was formed, thereby creating a state agency with responsibility for the supervision of water rights claimed after the date of its formation. Water rights obtained prior to the formation of the Water Board were acquired through a state statutory process.