California authorities might crackdown on some cities and agribusinesses that take water from the Golden State’s river system.
The State Water Resources Control Board recently warned about 20,000 water rights holders they could face drinking and irrigating water restrictions.
“Last year, extreme drought conditions led to unprecedented actions by the State Water Board that included curtailment of water rights in many California watersheds,” the board website said.
“We are preparing similar actions for 2022 [and] if you are in the Bay-Delta, Russian River, Scott River, Shasta River, Mill Creek or Deer Creek watersheds, you should prepare for earlier curtailments,” it added.
The water quality and rights regulator blamed a three-year drought for bringing mandatory cutbacks. The proposed measure also affects those with historical legal claims to river water.
“We are experiencing historic dry conditions: February is usually California’s wettest month, but January and February 2022 were the driest we’ve seen in recorded history,” it said in a stakeholder letter obtained by the Sacramento Bee.
Rain totals are still less than half the average so far this year, and dry weather is predicted for the rest of spring.
“We are using hydrologic forecasts, real-time conditions, and water use data reported by water right holders to closely monitor six critical watersheds where worsening conditions may threaten water supplies, impair critical habitat, reduce recreational opportunities, and create uncertainty for all water users,” the board website said.
The authority previously ordered thousands of Californians to reduce water consumption from the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds. These are arguably two of the state’s most important waterways.
The joint study, “Rapid intensification of the emerging southwestern North American megadrought,” revealed that the worst drought was recorded back in the 1500s.
“A previous reconstruction back to 800 AD indicated that the 2000–2018 soil moisture deficit in southwestern North America was exceeded during one megadrought in the late-1500s,” the team led by University of California geography researcher A. Park Williams said in the research report.
Williams, Columbia University Lamont adjunct associate research scientist Benjamin Cook, and fellow research professor Jason Smerdon also worked on the study.
Current dry weather conditions could continue well into the year and possibly even reach the same 16th Century levels.
“This drought will very likely persist through 2022, matching the duration of the late-1500s megadrought,” they said.